Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Hey, all. I pray that we all have a very happy New Year, not just tonight, but that this whole year of 2006 is overflowing in the favor of God. Personally, I believe that this year is going to be the start of great things that God has put inside of me. How about you?

I've been thinking today about Jonathan, the son of King Saul. In 1 Samuel 14, we see this man taking a step in faith, and doing a great work for God. Jonathan and just his armor-bearer took a step out and fought the Philistine army. Did Jonathan hear from God? The Bible only says this in verse 7:

Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, "Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few."

All Jonathan went on was that word, "perhaps". He had no direct word from heaven. He took a chance, and stepped out in faith, and God honored it. Jonathan was a risk taker for the Lord.

This is what I want to be. God has given me dreams and a vision. Now is the time to see it take shape. How about you? Perhaps it's now time to take that first step toward God's plan for you. Yes, it may seem too hard, even impossible. But remember, our Lord Jesus said that with God, nothing is impossible.

It is my prayer that this last post of mine in 2005 has encouraged you, and hopefully lit a fire under you to begin chasing that God-given dream. God bless you!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What is Relevant Ministry?

Hey, all. I'm going to shift gears today from my usually devotion style blog. I have mentioned before about the call to start a church. That call has led me in recent weeks to really dive headfirst into examining ministry, as to find a good method of reaching out to people with the Gospel. Of course,we know that the message of Gospel must never change, but the method we use to serve it up does.

About a year ago, I was about halfway into the Minsterial Internship Program, a nine-month program designed to give practical experience to new ministers. I was beginning put together the one paper we were required to write, called the Theology of Ministry (Henry, Darrell and Neil, I'm sure you remember!). For my topic, I looked at the ministry of Jesus as our example of truly Spirit-led and Spirit-filled ministry. I looked at three aspects of His ministry, His preaching/teaching, His miracles, and His sacrifice. Some scripture I used for this study included Isaiah 61, Acts 10:38 and Hebrews 9:14.

My point is that Jesus was the prime example of what we call "relevant" ministry. He engaged the culture of His day, which appeared to be poor and working class people. He didn't hang with the "important folks" the religious people. Our culture today is a Post-Christian culture. So here's my question to you: what does relevant ministry look like in post-christian and postmodern times? I've read the articles, but nothing communicates like person experience. Share your stories, share your ideas and methods. I look forward to the responses. God bless.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Some More Pics

I know it's late, but I finally figured out how to add photos! These are from Christmas at Grandma's house (my mom). The little guy on the left is my nephew Tyler. The bigger girl on the right that is halfway cut off is my niece from Milwaukee, Melissa. My son Timmy is concentrating hard on his present, while my girls Machaela and Gabbie are unwrapping their Barbie Dollhouse.

The Joys of Fatherhood

*I thought I'd experiment with a recent picture of the kids, actually sitting still! Left to right is Machaela, Timmy and Gabbie.

Hey, all. I'm just sitting here in front of my computer holding my almost 4 year old girl (in picture above, she is the one on the right). She was supposed to be asleep a couple of hours ago, but she came to the stairway and quietly said she wanted me to rub her head. Sometimes, when trying to get her to fall asleep, I will sit beside her bed and gently brush her hair back with my hand. As I sit her typing this, she is falling asleep in her daddy's arms. I think there is a message in there somewhere, but I'm not going to preach it.

When Gabbie (her name) came downstairs, she had 2 of her "Doodle Bears" she got for Christmas, and her "blanky", a ragged blanket she's had since she was just a few months old. She only seems to find comfort in it by sucking on it. Problem is, the darn thing gets stinky in a real hurry, and we have to sneak it to the laundry room while she's occupied with something else.

My other 2 are also asleep now. Peace at last!

His Faithful Love Endures Forever!

As I was reading the Bible last night before bed, this portion of Scripture jumped out at me. The 136th Psalm is a passage in which every verse ends with the refrain, “for his mercy endures forever”. Every verse tells us of an act of God, and then declares his mercy, or faithful love to us. Today, my focus is on verses 7-9.

This section is praising God in his creation specifically of the great lights he created, the sun, moon and stars. Let’s read these verses.

“Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights-
His faithful love endures forever.

the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.

and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever.”

Now, several weeks ago I wrote about the sun, moon and stars, but something else jumped off the page that caught my attention. That is, God’s creation was an act of his mercy, his faithful love. When God was creating the world, it was out of his faithful love for us. As he placed the sun in its place and the moon in its place, it was out of his faithful love for us. The amazing thing is that when God was creating these, Adam hadn’t been formed of the dust of the earth yet. He was still just a thought in God’s mind. What that tells me is that if God was good to us before we were even formed, how much more will he be good to us in the here and now?

In the earlier entry, I related the sun and moon and stars to the things God is doing in us.
The things we see in the daytime sky and the nighttime sky are absolutely breathtaking. So is all that God has done in us, which should shine to out to be seen by those around us. As God’s original creation was an act of his faithful love, so his working in our lives in an act of his faithful love. Friends, this is something to rejoice in today!

The Bible tells us to give thanks to God for the great things that he has done (118:1). Look back on your life and see what awesome things that the Lord Jesus has done. I look back on my life with Christ, and I have to praise him. Friends, he freed me from the bondage of alcohol instantly. He released me from years of addiction to pornography. He took an angry young man that could lose control in a rage and cause damage to things, and brought me out of that. He started to work his Holy nature out in my life. He called me into the ministry of his Holy Word. The Lord has been so good to me!

Look back on your life. What has God done for you? Give him thanks, and remember that his faithful love for you endures forever! God bless.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to send a shout out to everyone this Christmas Eve. To all who read this blog, and all who contribute, Merry Christmas and God bless you!

And for those who pop in and check out this site, or if you are simply blogging around randomly, remember the greatest given ever given wasn't found under the tree. The Bible says that God so loved the world, that's you, that He gave His one and only Son, so that those who believe in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, won't persish in Hell, but have eternal life with Christ! If you haven't trusted the Lord Jesus and committed your self to Him, I encourage you today to turn from your sins and commit your life to him. God bless you this Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Another Stone in the River

Joshua 4:9 “And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.”

First of all, thanks to Pastor Neil for getting me focused on this particular topic. Neil mentioned in his blog the need to get rid of stuff that hinders us. Well, that reminded me of a message I preached a few years back, but it’s pertinent to the discussion we’ve been having over on his blog site. I thought I'd bring it up here. Now, let’s get into the Word!

I want to give a little background information on this passage. God had now begun leading His people into the land of Canaan, the land He had promised Abraham that his descendants would live in. They were actually situated east of Canaan, modern day Israel and Palestine. Right off the bat, these folks are faced with problem number one: the Jordan River. Now, any other time of year, this would be a cakewalk. But this was harvest time, and at harvest, the river overflowed its banks (see Josh. 3:15). I suppose the word “overflow” is something of an understatement. You see, history tells us that at this time, it was over a mile wide. Normally, it was a small river, easy to cross. God miraculously caused the river to part, kind of like the Red Sea, so they could cross over on dry ground by foot. Joshua had one man from each of the twelve tribes get one stone out of the riverbed, and set it up on the other side where they were camping, as a memorial to what God has done. That’s another message for another day, and I’ll wait till then to talk about those stones. But then, while the water was still held back by God, Joshua took twelve more stones himself, and piled them up in the middle of the riverbed. Now, I understand why God had them pile the stones up on the other side, but why in the riverbed, since the water would begin to flow soon at flood stage, and the stones Joshua set up would be covered? I believe the reason he set up those stones in the riverbed was he was making a declaration that the people those Israelites used to be were gone now. You see, these people grew up in the desert hearing nothing but grumbling and complaining. They heard their parents voice their unbelief. That had to rub off on them, at least in part. I believe the attitudes and unbelief had to die. That’s what those stones in the Jordan represented.

So, what does that mean for us who belong to Christ? It means that we also must get rid of the stuff that holds us back in our walk with Christ. We have stones that most be piled up in the riverbed, too. Just listen to what Hebrews 12:1 has to say.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”

What hinders you today, friends? What is it that is holding you back from all that Christ has for you? Yes, it could be some besetting sin. It could just be “stuff”, things that aren’t really sinful, but aren’t helping you either. That word, “encumbrance” in the Greek literally means “bulk” or “mass”. It’s the stuff that weighs us down, and keeps us from effectively running this race. Here’s an example from my life. I grew up in the eighties, and I am a child of the video game. I had the Atari 2600. I had the Nintendo Entertainment System. I had computers with great video games. Now, I have my brother’s Xbox game system, because he isn’t using now. If I’m not careful, I will let myself do nothing but play games. I love it! I will stay up until very late at times with that thing and I have to be up before first light. Now, the games I play aren’t bad or evil. I don’t have Grand Theft Auto or anything like that. Is there something inherently evil about video games? That depends on the game, but with the games I have, no. The problem comes when the games start taking from my time with God, from prayer and times of Bible study and worship. The Xbox becomes a weight that is holding me back.

I like what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3: 13-14:

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We have a mark we are pressing on to, and stuff is going to have to be dumped and forgotten. In Paul’s case, it was his religious upbringing, his pride as a Pharisee, the pride associated with his national identity, and his vile hatred of Christ and His Church prior to his own salvation. He said of it all, “it’s all just dung”.

So be encouraged today, friend. The Lord is on your side, and He is doing a work in you that you can’t possibly do in your own strength. And be encouraged as He asks you to lay aside stuff, He will also give you the grace to do so. I leave you with one of the great promises of God in Philippians 2:12-13:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure

God bless, my friends!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Don't Just Stand There, Do Something!

"Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the LORD brought about a great victory." 2 Samuel 23:11-12

In my last entry, I spoke of knowing God's calling and purpose for oneself, yet having a sense of missing God about that purpose. That even though I am certain of my call to pastor and shepherd the flock, I still at times feel like I missed it somewhere. Today, I want to talk with a different group of people. I want to talk to those who, though they love the Lord Jesus, still are unsure of the call and purpose.

Much of my ministry has been to young people. Though I haven't been the Youth Pastor, I have worked closely with youth. One thing I have found to be common with teenagers is that they are unsure of what their God-given purpose is. It's not just teens that feel this way. There are many, both young and old alike, that are trying to figure out what God has for them to do. Tonight, let's focus on this statement: If you don't know what to do, do something.

In the scripture above, the Philistines had again, like many times before, come against Israel. People started to panic, and everyone fled. Everyone, that is, but a guy named Shammah. He was one of David's "mighty men", a warrior. The Bible says that they were in an area with a piece of ground for growing lentils. When everyone fled from the enemy, Shammah decided to stay and fight. Because he stayed and fought, the Bible goes on to say that the Lord brought about a great victory.

What I love is that this hero of the Bible has no real mention. It doesn't tell us that he had some blessed experience of being called out by God's prophet and anointed, as David had. He simply decided that he was not going to retreat in the face of danger. When everyone else did nothing, he did something.

This past Sunday, I spoke on this subject to the Youth Sunday School Class. The majority of those in the class admitted to not knowing what God had in store for them. So I put the question to them. Is it easier to just sit on your hands and do nothing when you're unsure of God's call? Or is it easier to take the initiative and do something? Overwhelmingly, they admitted that it was easier to sit down and do nothing. Friends, just because God hasn't made clear to us our calling, doesn't mean that He wants us to sit around and do nothing till He tells us. When you don't know what to do, do something. Maybe you can start a lunchtime Bible study at work. Perhaps it's getting together with another believer to pray for your work or school. Start going door to door, sharing Christ with your neighbors, or passing out Gospel tracts in places where larger quanities of people gather. Perhaps your church has an outreach ministry that you can get involved with. Many times, while I was trusting God to clarify my call, I would hit the streets to walk, pray and witness to those I passed.

I'm reminded of a parable that Jesus told. In Matthew 25, Jesus told the parable of the talents. In this story, a wealthy man was preparing to go away for a while, so he called his servants, and put each in charge of something. In Luke's version of this parable, he tells the servants to "do business" till he comes. Two of the servants did good work, and they were commended, but the third, fearing his master, decided to bury the money entrusted to him, and did nothing. Upon his master's return, an account of his work was required. What strikes me is what his master said. "Why didn't you at least put my money in the bank? Then at least I would have earned interest on it." In other words, he should have done something. Now, while this man's motivation was fear, yours may just be that you don't know what you are supposed to do yet. But be encouraged, friends. There is always work to be done for the Kingdom of God. So whether it's hitting the streets and witnessing, or hitting your knees and praying (or both!), find a place to work, and plug your self in. God bless!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lost! (At least it seems that way)

“And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel [was] established [to be] a prophet of the LORD.” 1 Sam. 3:19-20

Have you ever felt that you somehow missed God concerning His purpose for your life? Have you ever felt like you were trying to wedge yourself into a spot that God never really intended for you to go? I know I have. Yet, I am confident in my call. I know what God has called me to do, at least I know in part (1 Cor. 13:9). I want to speak to those today who for whatever reason are struggling with what they feel God has purposed for them. Let’s recount this story from 1 Samuel.

Samuel was a miracle child, born to a couple who could not have children. God had heard the prayer of Samuel’s mother, and graciously opened her womb. She conceived, and Samuel was born. As soon as she weaned her young son, she took him to the tabernacle, and “lent him to the Lord”. She took young Samuel to live there at the tabernacle, where he trained for the priesthood. Yet, because of the disobedience of his mentor’s house, Samuel was raised up by God to be a new priest, judge and prophet to Israel. Even though he must have been quite young, God began to use Samuel. As our text today says, God didn’t let any of his (Samuel’s) words “fall to the ground”. In other words, when Samuel spoke God’s Word, not one word failed. All came to pass. Everyone knew then that God had “established” or confirmed Samuel as a true prophet.

Now, not everyone has been called to be a prophet. But we all have some purpose here on this planet. There is some job that the Lord Jesus has for us to do. As the Bible tells us, we are all part of the Body of Christ. We each have a function. But just as God confirmed Samuel in his role, so He will confirm us in ours. For me, there are times where I will struggle with the call of God as a pastor. It sometimes seems that it’s an impossible dream that, like the proverbial door at the end of the hallway, seems to get farther away with every step I take toward it. You know, that can get depressing. It can be discouraging. Sometimes it seems like I’m simply sitting on my hands, with no doors opening. I pray, study, and fast (okay, sometimes!). But sometimes, it just feels like He’s dropped me in a spiritual closet and told me to just sit. Other times, I struggle with God’s timing. “When God when?” It seems easier sometimes to just chalk it up to mishearing God. But these are times when I must hold out in faith, and press on, being faithful.

Yet, I can see where God is using me in my particular role. I begin to see where He uses me to “shepherd” those he sends me. I see where He is using me as an “equipper of the Body” (see Ephesians 4:11-12). Hey, He has even used this blog to remind me of His purpose for me. Yes, He is steadily showing me and others that I will not “fall to the ground”, that He is confirming me in my place in His plans.

Let me encourage you today. Be faithful to do what you believe God has called you to do, even if it seems futile. God will confirm your call. He will show you the ways that He is establishing you. And remember, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem to you now, press on. As Jesus said, those who are faithful in the little things will entrusted with more. God bless!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Somebody's Watching Me Again!

1 Sam. 2:12; 17- Now the sons of Eli [were] sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.”

In, my last blog, I wrote of the need to remember that there are people around us who are watching how we live our lives. I spoke specifically about how we are to live our lives through the storms that life often throws at us. Today, I want to speak about how to live our lives above reproach, for the same reason that as those around us watch our lives, our actions can make or break their faith.

In this passage, we read of the two sons of Eli the priest, Hophni and Phinehas. They were priests at the tabernacle, but we read that they were corrupt; in fact, the Bible says that they did not know the Lord. Here were these two brothers, working as representatives of the Almighty, yet they did not know Him personally. They had no relationship with God, and so they lived unholy lives. These men were known for taking much more than the priest’s share of the offerings made. Imagine that you are waiting with your family and friends, in a joyous celebration of God’s goodness, and you are waiting for your portion to the sacrifice to eat, and these priests suddenly send in one of their servants with a special fleshook, or fork, to take your food, just so they could fulfill their greed. They even had the nerve to rob God of the offering before it could be burnt, so they could have a fresh roast (vs. 15-16). These priests were also known to commit sexual sin with the women that came to the tabernacle. Even their dad Eli, who had grown spiritually dull himself, called his sons out on their sin, but to no avail. The Bible calls them “Sons of Belial”, literally, “sons of destruction, worthless, good for nothing, and unprofitable”. Needless to say, not the kind of boys I want my girls to bring home!

But here’s the point: these were priests. They were representatives of God. A minister of God must be above reproach. Just look at 1 Timothy 3 for a list of qualities necessary for a minister. These men were the exact opposite. Their actions caused the people to “abhor the offering of the Lord”. As the people of Israel would near the time of sacrifice, I can almost hear them mumbling, “We’ve gotta go up and deal with those rotten guys again”. And who could really blame them? The actions of these men caused others to not want to offer sacrifices to God.

I suppose I could talk about the flamboyant hucksters out there on late-night infomercials that promise God’s blessings for a “seed faith” offering of $50. But that’s another topic, though it would preach. I want to focus on our everyday lives, and how we conduct ourselves. Others are watching us, and we need to set an example of Godly behavior. People need to see that not only do we profess the Lord Jesus Christ verbally, but our lives demonstrate the truths we speak of. You see, we are exhorted in Romans 12:1 that we must “present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called on by God Himself to lay ourselves “on the altar” so to speak, to realize that we are not our own, to reckon our will and desires as dead. And that is where we find true life! I’m reminded of a modern worship chorus that says, “The Wonderful cross, bids me come and die, and find that I may truly live”. But when those in the world see a believer acting no different than them, it causes them to “abhor the offering of the Lord”. They may say things like, “That Christian doesn’t live any different from me, why do I want what he’s got?” or “Christians are all hypocrites”. We must watch our lives, and guard our testimonies. Others are watching.

King David had a similar experience. We know the story, how he alone one day saw a beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop, as he was on his. He found out about her, and sent for her. Even though he knew that she was married, and to a loyal solider at that, he slept with her. When he found out about her now being pregnant, he sent for her husband from battle, to cover his track, and everyone would think the child was his. But that plan didn’t work, so David sent him back to battle with a letter to the commander to put him at the front of the heaviest battle. It worked, as the man was killed. The “man after God’s heart” had done evil, and soon, he was called on the carpet by the prophet of God. David repented, but he was told that his actions had caused the enemies of God to blaspheme Him. God’s name had been attacked because the “man of God” had sinned grievously. David’s actions demonstrate my point today.

Let us live our lives in such a way, that those we work with, and interact with, be it friend of family, see the nature of Christ displayed before them. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify God in heaven! God bless.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Somebody's Watching Me

2 Corinthians 1:3-6 (AMP)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement), Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God. For just as Christ's [[a]own] sufferings fall to our lot [b][as they overflow upon His disciples, and we share and experience them] abundantly, so through Christ comfort (consolation and encouragement) is also [shared and experienced] abundantly by us. But if we are troubled (afflicted and distressed), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement) and [for your] salvation; and if we are comforted (consoled and encouraged), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement), which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same evils (misfortunes and calamities) that we also suffer and undergo.

As I was reading this passage today in the Amplified version of the Bible, I began to think not about suffering and times of trial and affliction, as is the context of this passage, but the fact that as believers of Jesus Christ, others are watching us. I was reminded of an old song from my childhood called, “I Always Feel like Somebody’s Watching Me”. Now, I don’t remember at all what the song was about. I am certain that it had nothing to do with being an example to those who watch us. But it reminded me that my life is being watched. I’m being watched most definitely by at least three pairs of little eyes, my kids. They watch my life, my attitudes, my demeanor, and my reactions. They see me at my very best, and at my very worst. Others watch me as well, such as my unsaved loved ones, coworkers, and fellow believers. That’s why it’s so important to that we live our lives in a way that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.

That means in the good times as well as the bad. I know that the recurring theme of my blog is valleys and trials. We tend to write and speak about what we know, and hey, it’s what I know. Here, the apostle Paul speaks of his own afflictions for Christ’s sake. He first makes it clear that we as Christ’s disciples will experience suffering. Look at the fifth verse: “For just as Christ's [[a]own] sufferings fall to our lot [b][as they overflow upon His disciples, and we share and experience them] abundantly, so through Christ comfort (consolation and encouragement) is also [shared and experienced] abundantly by us” (AMP). We will go through times of affliction and distress. Yet, in those times, we can be assured that the Lord will console us and encourage us. Why, we can simply look at His example. “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). That is what Paul did.

Yet, Paul realized that the believers in Corinth were watching him. Undoubtedly, he knew that they were watching to see his reaction to his own distress and hardship. He gave them a great example, and here he expounded on that. Verse six speaks of his trials and afflictions as being for their good. But he told them in effect, “If I am troubled and afflicted, it’s for your comfort and encouragement. And if I’m comforted in these trials, it’s for your encouragement as well!” In other words, he was saying that the Corinthian Christians can rejoice and be encouraged, because if Paul can endure the trials and suffering, so can they.

Friends, we must remember this important fact. We will be watched. That goes for situations such as Paul wrote about here in 2 Corinthians 1, or making sure that we are living our lives in a manner that is worthy of the Gospel of Jesus. People are watching us, and our reactions to life’s circumstances can make or break their trust in Christ. So let us be mindful of those eyes that maybe upon us, watching our lives, so that we might show them the nature of Jesus Christ. God bless!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Can These Bones Live?

Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."'"
So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."'" So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. Ezekiel 37:4-10

This passage of Scripture has got to be one of the most preached passages ever. It’s easy to see why. What a vivid prophecy. If this stands out so much to us in the 21st century, imagine what it must have been like for Ezekiel as he had this vision. This is a prophecy of Scripture that has been fulfilled. It was fulfilled on May 14, 1948, when Israel once again became a sovereign nation. God was bringing His chosen people back to their homeland. While this prophecy has been sealed, I believe that there is truth that we as the Body of Christ can glean from it.

1. Verse 7 tells of the miraculous rejoining of the scattered bones. What I take from this is that God does not desire for us to be or remain in a scattered state. Sin causes us to drift away from God, and we spend less time in prayer, less time in the Word, and generally neglect our relationship with Him. Hebrews 2:1 exhorts us to pay all the more attention and heed to what we’ve learned, so that we don’t drift away. Yet when we allow cares and worries take hold on us, that is exactly what can happen. From personal experience, I know the havoc that it causes. I understand the disconnectedness from God, a feeling of being lost, despair, etc. And in turn, when part of the Body is not functioning properly, it means the Body as a whole can't function as it should.

2. The next step was the flesh and sinews coming on the skeletons. It's important for structure in the Body, but there must be substance as well. How does one build up substance in his or her life? We do so by a steady diet of the Word of God. Whether it takes the form of milk for the baby Christian, or solid meat for a mature Christian, the Word helps to strengthen us. But in the prophecy at that point, these were just corpses without the breath of life. The Bible says that knowledge puffs up, or inflates us like a balloon. It also says that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. I believe that there is a danger in simply knowing and learning what the Word says, without allowing the Spirit to make the word alive in us. The picture I have in mind is of the Pharisees, with simply an empty knowledge of the Word, but no Spirit to direct the knowledge they had. They were boastful in that they knew Scripture, and all they got was an inflated ego. In one confrontation with them, Jesus said, “Search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life. Yet these are the scriptures that speak of me” (John 5:39). They knew the Word, yet when the “Word made flesh” stood in front of their faces, they didn’t recognize him. They didn’t even realize that they were the “living dead”, without the Spirit of God to make real the Word inside them. That brings us to the final point: the need for the Holy Spirit in our lives.

3. The Spirit gave these lifeless bodies life, and they became a mighty army (vv 9-10). We too are an army. An army has to function as one, with one purpose in mind. So the Body of Christ is to operate in one mind and accord. Our anointing (1 Jo 2:20) functions best in the Body. We need each other to minister effectively. Sure, we notice when God has gifted and equipped a person, but it's not for himself, because he is to function as another part of the Body. That is why unity is so important. Without unity, we can't function as we should. Unity of the Body is what makes our anointing most effective. That’s why it’s so critical to walk in harmony and peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul said in Ephesians 4:3 that we must endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, because there is one body, and one Spirit, as we are called in one hope of our calling. There is only one Lord, one faith. So let us keep in unity with our brothers and sisters, and there we will see God do mighty things.

I pray that this study has blessed someone out there today. Until next time, God bless.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Just for Laughs

Hey, all. It's a late night, and I'm about to turn in (guess I should've decided against a half pot of coffee!). Anyway, when I first saw this clip, I about fell over laughing. More than a month later, my kids still ask to see "the funny email", since that is all they know of computer stuff. So, here's the link. Enjoy!
  • Click Here

  • God bless, and good night!

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Keep Your Eyes on the Road

    "Let your eyes look directly ahead And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:25-27

    As I was driving in to work this morning, I heard a new rendition of an old hymn that I haven’t heard in a long time. As I listened, the third verse stood out to me. Here are the words to this beautiful verse:

    “O to grace how great a debtor
    daily I'm constrained to be!
    Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
    bind my wandering heart to thee.
    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
    prone to leave the God I love;
    here's my heart, O take and seal it,
    seal it for thy courts above.”

    It got me thinking about my own walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, and how easy it is to get distracted from the path I am walking. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”. I can identify with that. It’s not that I’m a backslider, I’m not, but I understand how prone to distraction I can be.

    As we read through the Bible, we see in many places where God warns His people not to turn to the right or the left. We read that God desires them to follow Him wholly, and to not allow things to pull us away from Him. One of the saddest verses in the entire Bible, in my opinion, is 1 Kings 11:6: “Thus, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord's sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done” (NLT). Here was man who had powerful experiences with the God of the universe. He had on two different occasions been visited by the Lord, he was given everything he had by Him, from his wisdom to his riches, and yet, he did not set his gaze straight before him, but he allowed distraction to draw him away from following the Lord. His distraction took the form of women that were heathens, worshipping false gods. So Solomon allowed compromise in, all because he looked away from God.

    There are surely many diamonds to pick up as we follow the path Christ leads us down. But as the Israelites of old, coming into the Promised Land, were told to stay behind the Ark, because they were in a land they had never been in before, so let us stay behind God, following Him close. For there the most precious diamonds will be found. All that glitters is not gold. From my own experience, it easy to see what shines so beautifully as we pass by, but the temptation is to veer off and chase the gems in forbidden territory. I'm reminded of years ago, when I was learning how to drive. My dad constantly said one phrase to me: "keep your eyes on the road". Come to think of it, my wife has said that to me a lot too. So today, let’s do as the writer of Proverbs tells us, and set our gaze in front of us, keeping our eyes fixed on our wonderful Savior. God bless.

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    Waiting With the Vultures

    “And He said to him, ‘Bring to Me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ And he brought Him all these and cut them down the middle [into halves] and laid each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not divide.” Gen. 15:9-10
    Abram had received a promise from God that He would have a son of his own, and that the land of Caanan would be given to his descendents. Yet, Abram still asked God for a sign of this promise. That is when God told him to get the sacrificial animals.
    Abram knew exactly what God was doing. This was how covenants were made in ancient times. He was telling Abram that they would enter into a covenant.

    Abram knew just what to do with the animals. He cut them in two, signifying a blood covenant. It was a way of saying, “If I don’t hold up my end, let the same be done to me!”

    Since God had appeared to Abram previously, he fully expected that once the sacrifices were cut, and then God would show up to walk through the pieces with him. But God did not show up right away. Instead, the vultures did, so Abram drove them away. Eventually, he fell asleep, and that was when God showed up.

    This event in Abram’s life teaches us:

    1. There will be times of waiting on God for His timing
    For most of us, the hardest part of serving God is the waiting, for me especially. Let’s just say that God is really doing a work of patience in me!
    Abram had to wait some 20 years for the promise of his son.
    Joseph waited for years for the fulfillment of his God-given dreams.
    The point: we must wait in faith. Ps 37:7a “Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him”
    2. Our sacrifice will be attacked by the enemy. Our sacrifice of faith, trusting God when everything says to give up, will be visited by the vultures.
    Abram had hope and faith when all human reasoning said to give up. He hoped and trusted in the face of opposing circumstances.
    We must remember that we are a living sacrifice. We are called to times to lay everything before God, even in the face of criticism and opposition. It’s easy to trust God when the things are going right. It’s entirely something else to trust Him when the when things are at there darkest.
    Yet we need to realize that God is with us in that darkness. Abram awoke from his deep sleep not just to darkness, but God was with him in the darkness (v. 17).

    3. Finally, remember that in the darkest times of trial and affliction, when we seem to have lost everything, God will bring us out with what we didn’t have going in.
    “And [God] said to Abram, Know positively that your descendants will be strangers dwelling as temporary residents in a land that is not theirs [Egypt], and they will be slaves there and will be afflicted and oppressed for 400 years.
    But I will bring judgment on that nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”
    Gen. 15:13-14

    You will come out of the fire greater than when you went in! I’m not talking about material things, but you’ll come out with faith that you didn’t have before.

    You’ll have perseverance that you didn’t have before.

    You’ll have a greater hope than before.

    We all know the verse Job is famous for. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb; naked I shall return. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” A wonderful statement of faith, but that simply sustained him through the fight. The verse that gives us hope is at the end. “And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.” Job 42:12

    I pray that this message has blessed you, and reminded you of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. God bless!

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    I Bought The Field

    "Then Hanamel my uncle's son came to me in the court of the guard according to the word of the LORD and said to me, 'Buy my field, please, that is at Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for you have the right of possession and the redemption is yours; buy {it} for yourself.' Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD. "I bought the field which was at Anathoth from Hanamel my uncle's son, and I weighed out the silver for him, seventeen shekels of silver. "I signed and sealed the deed, and called in witnesses, and weighed out the silver on the scales. Jeremiah 32:8-10 NASB

    This is an amazing passage of Scripture. Just to get a basic understanding, Jerusalem had been besieged by Babylon, and Judah lay waste. Most of the people had been carried off to Babylon, and only the very poor were left. In fact, Jeremiah was in prison! And that was when the Word of the Lord came to him. Look at what God tells him to do. He said to buy a field in Anathoth from his cousin. God was asking Jeremiah to do something that made absolutely no sense at all. This is like us today going to the worst, burnt out area of the city, and while everyone else is getting out of town, and values are plummeting, we buy property. It made no sense to the natural man. But Jeremiah obeyed God, and did it anyway, having the deed shut away in a jar of clay, with only a seemingly far-off promise of future blessing, and a declaration of, “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, [and] there is nothing too hard for thee” (v. 17)

    I wonder how Jeremiah must have felt when this all occurred. I wonder if there was any doubt or wonder at why God would have him do such a thing. All he could do was put it in God’s hands, not knowing when promise would come to pass. To the onlooker, or the witnesses that day to the transaction, it must have seemed so foolish. “Jeremiah’s buying a field where…?” could have been whispered in the prison cell that day. I think I know somewhat how Jeremiah must have felt.

    You see, these past several weeks, I’d been going though one of the hardest times of my life. I was on the verge of losing everything, and God seemed so silent about my trial. I had times where I cried out, even sometimes yelled at God (think of the scene in the movie, “The Apostle”, where Sonny is screaming at the Lord). Yet, I could sense the Lord urging me to press on, to keep being faithful. I didn’t realize it fully till the next day, but I was so downcast I was about to walk away from my calling. In my mind, all I could do was reason that it’s no use. I keep tithing, I keep praying and seeking God. I keep studying the Word and getting sermons, which if it weren’t for this blog, probably wouldn’t ever be preached. I had all I could take. Perhaps Jeremiah kept thinking about that waste of a field that the Babylonian armies were sitting on, fighting the urge to scream about the waste of money. This was where I was at.

    Then, on Sunday morning, my pastor had finished preaching and given an altar call. I can’t even remember what it was for now, but I went forward, and prayed one more time. Before I knew it, there were five or six people gathered around me praying. They were all praying to God about what I had need of! God was there and He had heard me all along! Then, an older brother in the church, a councilman, full of wisdom, came up to me and started speaking the Word to me. He reminded me of God’s promises. He reminded me of God’s timing. And most of all, he reminded me of God’s call on my life. I don’t think that man understood the brevity of where I stood at that moment, on the edge of laying my call aside. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It was a word in due season, spoken to my weary soul.

    The full impact of what happened that morning didn’t hit me until the next evening, as I was stuck in traffic on I-94, trying to come home. It brought tears to my eyes to realize how great God’s call is, and that even though everything seemed to be falling apart, He was still there calling me, and using me. Today, I have a renewed passion for following the Lord Jesus wholly.

    I am so grateful that when I was at my lowest, He sent someone by to tell me what I needed to hear the most. Thank you, Lord, for the grace and goodness to me. God bless.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    What's With the Firmament?

    “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so.
    And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” Genesis 1: 7, 14

    You know, I can’t seem to get away from this passage of scripture right now. So forgive me as I go for day # 2 in Genesis 1. A couple years back, I remember doing a study on the days of Creation. I was drawing similarities with God’s work in Creation, and His work in the New Birth. I noticed that when He created the heavens and the earth, that they were without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Holy Spirit was hovering, or brooding over the face of the deep. We, too, were without form and void, and without order and chaotic. We too were in spiritual darkness. But the Holy Spirit was hovering over us, too, convicting us of our sin, and telling us of our need for Christ. Then God said, “Let there be light”. We too had to have His light to shine on us in our unregenerate condition, so we could become aware of our need of Him, and His forgiveness. I progressed on in my study, but I stumped when I came to the creation of the firmament. I had no idea what the connection was. The firmament is an old word for the expanse of the sky. And the sky is immensely important. But I just didn’t see any connection. So, I moved on, and eventually studied something else.

    Then a month or so later, as I was having my morning devotion before work, I felt impressed by the Holy Spirit to read the nineteenth Psalm. So I did. What I read brought back the old study, and that first verse jumped off the page, and into my spirit. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Suddenly, when I had all but forgotten that study, God brought it back and showed me what I had not gotten prior. The purpose of the sky is to allow us to see what God has made above the ground! In a real sense, it’s a window to what He has made beyond our little world. Imagine the beauty of a clear, starry night. See the falling stars, the moon, the planets, and the comets. Get you telescopes and spot the nebulas and far off solar systems. We get to see it all through the “window” of the sky.

    In the same way, others need to be able to “look” into our lives and see the great things that God is doing, and has done. Maybe you are like me, and had an anger problem. I’ve put a hole in my bedroom wall. I would throw things. I would scream and yell and give myself migraine headaches for nothing. But God changed me! Maybe God is developing a faith in you that can stand the strongest storms. Perhaps He is putting His love in you for the most unlovable people. It could be joy in the darkest times. But people will notice. And when they do, just as 1 Peter 3:15 says be ready to give them an answer for the hope that is in you!

    God wants people to see the change He is making in you. And He will get all the glory for it! So, stay in His presence, and stay in His word. Stay in prayer, and let Him do the surgery that only He can do. Those who look into your life will see only that that declares His glory! God Bless.

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    Moonlit Nights

    And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth” Genesis 1:14-17

    Here in Michigan, we are getting ready to enter our famous Michigan wintertime. There is lots of cold wind, ice and snow. My kids are looking forward to sledding and making snowmen. Ah, the joys of childhood. I’m looking forward to de-icing the van and shoveling the sidewalk. As if!

    One thing that I do love, especially in the winter, are clear nights with bright moonlight. I’m talking about the kind of moonlight that seems bright enough to read a newspaper. When we had a dog, it was during the winter. And my job as the man of the house was to get up at all hours of the night, bundle up, and take the puppy out. As much as I hated the task (I love to sleep!), I looked forward to those clear, moonlit nights. Ah, the memories I had with Scooter. Good riddance, boy.

    The thing about the moon is, as every first grader knows, it has no light source in itself. It is completely dependent on the sun to get its light. When we enjoy the moonlight, we are actually enjoying reflected sunlight. It got me thinking about the above scripture. You see, as we look through the Old Testament, we see pictures of truths that are revealed in the New Testament. From the animal sacrifices to the feasts, and even the tabernacle and temple, we see pictures of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. I believe this is a type of Christ and His church. Let me explain.

    As the moon has no light of its own, but is totally dependent upon the sun, so we reflect the light of Christ to this dark world. 2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The light we reflect is not our own, it is the light of Jesus Christ. And yes, we know that the Devil blinds the minds of unbelievers, so that the light of the Gospel can’t shine to them. But shine the light nonetheless!

    Remember, Jesus said that we are the light of the world. He said that men would see our good deeds, and glorify our Father in heaven. That is why it is so important to live lives worthy of the Gospel. We need to make sure that the deeds others see us do are righteous. We must guard our testimony. Remember, one thing unbelievers look for are hypocritical Christians. Those who say one thing, but live out something different. Don’t block out the light with the clouds of sin. Let’s be honest, and walk in integrity. So shine that light, and let the Lord use you to to reflect His light! God Bless.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Nothing without Him

    I just read something that spoke to me. I read a blog by a friend of mine, a fellow preacher, about people that will not admit their weaknesses, causing them to struggle through their whole lives. These folks spend all of their time trying to fill the vacuum in their hearts, when the only One who can fill them is the Lord Jesus Christ (To read what he wrote, click on the link to the right called, "The Dawg Howse"). It got me thinking again on a topic close to my heart, and should be close to the heart of all who trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That topic is our need for daily personal fellowship with Him. The Gospel of John says of Christ, “in Him was life, and that life is the light of men” (John 1:4). Lord, don’t let me neglect the Light that You bring to my life!

    Nowadays, it seems that there are a million distractions that keep us from fervently seeking our Lord. Prayer makes our lives, but time does not seem to allow us to pray. I know personally what I must do to ensure that I get the time I need with the Lord. Not just the time in His Word, the Bible, but also “praying without ceasing”. I try to keep in an attitude of prayer. Worshipping the Lord, singing praises to Him, blessing Him, are all ways I keep the “line open”. The more I seek Him, the more I realize just how much I need Him. Also, I realize how far short I fall in my prayer life.

    Jesus said John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, brings forth much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing”. How true are those words! As a follower of Christ, and especially as one called and commissioned to preach His Gospel, and equip His followers, I need that time with Him. I know, He is always with me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t initiate fellowship with Him. One thing I recently read from the old Methodist preacher E.M. Bounds said that God chooses to use men. How much more shall we run to the prayer closet and fall upon our Savior, and cry out to Him for the spiritual sustenance we so badly need? “Lord, make me a man of prayer. I know that apart from You, I can do absolutely nothing. Lead me into greater depths of your Life and Spirit. Make me like You. In Jesus’ Holy name, Amen”.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Thank You, Lord Jesus!

    “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, [and] into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, [and] bless his name.” Psalm 100:4

    I took a short walk today. It is a beautiful day outside, sunny and 56 degrees. As I walked, I praised and worshipped the Lord. I found myself thanking Him for His goodness. I thanked Him for such a wonderful day, especially given that it is November. I thank God for what He has given me. He has given me salvation from my sins. He has baptized me in the Holy Ghost. He has delivered me from certain ruin with alcohol. He gave me a beautiful wife, and three beautiful kids with one more on the way. We have a roof over our heads, heat and electricity, and running water. We have transportation. God has been good to us. I thank Him for all that He has done.

    But I also thank Him for what He has allowed me to endure. I thank Him because He has been developing godly character in me. He has been giving me a greater faith in Him. He has been pouring out His love in my heart. He has used the trials and difficult times to make me more like Him.

    I thank Him for the lessons He has taught me about a father’s love through my own children. I thank Him for the patience that He is still forming in me, again, through my kids. I thank Him for bringing my wife and I even closer to Him and each other through seven years of marriage.

    1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in every thing, for this is the will of God in Christ concerning us. We must remember that God is using every situation we find ourselves in for our good. So let us give Him thanks today, because even though we can’t understand what the Lord Jesus is doing all of the time, we can rejoice because no matter what, He is using the situation to make us into the men and women of God that He has called us to be. God bless!

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Light for the Battle

    I feel like I’m beating the same old drum lately. For some reason, God continues to give me messages that are trial related. But, I will do it anyway. I pray that someone out there is blessed by what I share today.

    Joshua 10:12-13

    Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. [Is] not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

    There are a couple of things to note about this particular event.
    1. This was a battle to make good a treaty they never should have made.
    The men of Gibeon had fooled Joshua into believing they had traveled from a far country. Joshua took them at their word, and failed to inquire of the Lord.

    2. Joshua had to let his yes be yes. Although through deception, he vowed to fight for these people, and so he did.

    Even though this was caused by his own lack of diligence, God was still fighting for Joshua and the Israelites. Not only were they slaughtering the armies of the five kings, but God also helped by sending a monster hailstorm to kill even more than Joshua’s army did.

    It must have been an exhausting day for Israel. They traveled all night to get to Gibeon, and fought all day. Evidently, there wasn’t enough daylight left to finish the job, so Joshua prayed that God would make the sun stand still.

    What is the connection? First, God will give us light for our battles. Those soldiers couldn’t effectively fight in the dark. They needed to see what they were doing. In just the same way, we need the light of God’s word and His presence to light our way in our battles.
    Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:4-5) As we go through this life, we also have been given light to light our way, the Spirit of Christ within us!

    Second, God will fight for us, even if we have put ourselves in the jam! That fight that day to protect Gibeon should never have happened. But God was still with Israel. And He caused good to come out of the situation, in that some of the people they were to conquer were done away with in one battle because they all joined together as one. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.”, and verse 31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God [be] for us, who [can be] against us?” God will fight for you!

    Be assured that God knows where you are in the battle. And even when things would seem the darkest, God is there to light you path! And know that He doesn’t cast you aside when you’ve caused the problem yourself, but He says to come boldly before His throne of grace, and receive the mercy you need in time of trouble (Heb. 4:16). God Bless!

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    A Work Prayer Request

    Hello, friends. Today at work I had a call from a manager in another part of the Division I work in about a job I applied for a month ago. I am supposed to hear about the proper testing for this position next week. Please pray for me. I have been praying about a better paying job for a very long time. This could be the answer!

    God knows exactly what we need. I pray that this is what I've been looking for. I'm hoping to be back with a new devotion Monday morning. Until then, brethren, may God bless you! Till next week.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Blessed Afflictions

    {God} said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
    But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.” (Genesis 15: 13-14 NASB)

    One topic I have written a good deal about in this blog is the storms and trials God often takes us through. What can I say? It’s a subject I know all too well. As I was listening to a preacher last night, he preached a bit from Genesis 15, but spoke about the sacrifices that Abram laid out. In reading the chapter this morning, what jumped off the page to me are the verses quoted above.

    The Israelites were in terrible bondage in Egypt. Exodus 1:14 gives a description of what they endured for four hundred years: “And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, [was] with rigour”. Finally, God sent Moses back to Egypt to deliver His people. As God said, they came out with abundance (Ex. 12:36).

    While it is important to encourage each other to weather the storms in our lives, I believe it is also important to say that God wants us to bring out of our storms what we didn’t have before. I’m not talking about tangible things, though God most certainly can do that. Romans 5:3-5(NLT) says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us-they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” As we go through our trials, God wants to develop Godly character in us. He wants to bring us out with greater faith than when we went into the trial. He wants to bring us out with greater love, and with a greater understanding of His goodness. This affliction today is working a far greater and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17).

    As I close out, I would like to mention the church at Thessalonica. They were an afflicted, persecuted church, yet they grew in adversity. They grew in faith and love (2 Thes. 1:3). So, just as they grew, let God grow you in you storm. And rejoice knowing that He will bring you out with more than you went into it with. God bless!

    Monday, October 31, 2005

    A Study on Shoes

    I love the Word of God. I love to study the Word. Well, Sunday morning I was doing my morning devotion in the book of Joshua. I was reading the fifth chapter, and when I came to verse fifteen, I seemed to get stuck. I haven’t been able to get this verse out of my spirit. Here is the verse:

    “And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy. And Joshua did so.” Joshua 5:15

    Of course, we know that Joshua’s mentor, Moses, had the same experience when God first called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. I have always wondered what the removal of the shoes could mean. After all, God could speak to us no matter what we wear, look like, or where we are. So I began to study out the purpose of shoe removal in Bible times. What I found was quite interesting. Also, I should say that the purpose of blogging this today is really a study. I would be more than happy to read what other people think of this happening in the Bible.

    First of all, shoes were never worn indoors. So for one to put shoes on meant that there was some kind of activity or work to be done. Could God have been telling Joshua that the job at hand of leading His people into the land of Canaan was His job? Joshua was to follow God’s leading, and not to try to work out his own plan. Often, in our zeal to fulfill God’s will, we try to “make things happen” when it seems that God is not moving, or not moving at the rate we would like Him to. We can look at Abraham, with the Hagar ordeal, or Jacob and his mother trying to make God’s promise come to pass through their own deceitful means. That is not to say we should not exercise foresight and wisdom, but that above all, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Ps.127:1).

    Shoes were not worn in a Holy place. The presence of God made the place holy, or set apart. Since shoes were used for everyday stuff, walking in all the common areas of life, to bring what is common to what is set apart for God was wrong. We must remember that God is Holy. Everything He does is Holy. We must never treat the Holy purposes of God as something common. Joshua was to realize that what God was ordaining him to do was holy, and needed to be treated as holy.

    Shoes were removed in an act of humiliation. When a man refused to do his job of taking his dead brother’s wife as his own, to raise up a child in his brother’s name, he was publicly humiliated. This was done by being spit upon by his brother’s widow, and having his shoe removed (Deut. 25:7-10). Also, it was a custom for one to relinquish his right to property, as seen in the story of Boaz and the kinsmen-redeemer that declined to take Ruth and the piece of property that was Naomi’s late husbands. Joshua was forfeiting any right to his own will. He was humbling himself before God, realizing that only God’s way in the right way. Also, let us remember that we must humble ourselves before the Lord, because if we don’t, He certainly knows how to.

    Finally, only the very poor and slaves had no shoes. Joshua needed to realize, as we do, that we are impoverished without the Lord Jesus. Even if we have great wealth and abundance, we are still in need of God.

    Well, that is all for now. I pray that this in some way blesses you. And, as I said before, feel free to post your views on this topic. We are all taking this walk with Christ one step at a time, so if anyone has insight I haven’t got, I want to hear it. God bless.

    Friday, October 28, 2005

    Change, Change, and More Change!

    Hebrews 13:8
    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

    We live in a world of change, don’t we? People change. Fads change. Styles change. Ideologies change. In fact, it has been said that the only constant is change. Today, I became personally affected by change. I found out that the company where I’ve worked for the past ten years has sold out several of its product lines, including the one I work in. The good news is, that the new company I work for, and I stress new, because it is a newly established business, is launching with a big workforce of employees that have been shifted to this new company. Not one job has been lost. So, while things have changed, some will stay the same. Yes, change is everywhere.

    The writer of Hebrews understood that change played a big part of their lives. You see, they were afraid for their lives. You could have been killed for faith in Jesus Christ. Many of the believers were contemplating a return to Judaism. But in the midst of all of the change, and all the fear and running, these folks could have the assurance of One that will never change- the Lord Jesus Christ! These people had built the house upon the Rock. And though the world was turbulent and changing all around them, they needed to be assured that Jesus was always with them.

    In today’s world, there is a lot of fear. Will there be a job for me tomorrow? Will the stock market crash? You name it, there is uncertainty attached. But, brethren, be assured that this whole world can pass away, but out confidence can remain fixed on the One who never changes- the Lord Jesus Christ! God bless.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    A Praise in the Darkness

    Last night was a hard night for me. I didn’t sleep very well. I must admit, I was under a great deal of fear and anxiety. Is it just me, or do fears seem to grow when the lights are out, and you are trying to sleep? Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows that my family and I are going through an extremely hard time right now financially. It sounds almost selfish to me to mention that, because these are hard financial times right now. I don’t like to talk about that in this blog, though, because it’s my desire to minister to those who read this. Well, that is still my plan.

    When I tried to go to sleep last night, as I’ve already said, fear took a death grip on me. I lay in bed in anxiety, praying to God to help me. It felt like every demonic force in hell was attacking me. So, I got up, walked out into my darkened living room, and began to seek God. I prayed, I cried out to Him, I praised Him just because He’s God. I then turned the light on, and grabbed my Bible, and began to read aloud the Word of God. Because I know that I’m not the only one who deals with such fear, I decided to type out some scriptures I read last night that helped.

    “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude. I lay down and slept. I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.” Ps. 3:3-5

    “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Ps. 34:4

    “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” Isaiah 26:3

    “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

    “Now the God of Peace be with you all. Amen” Rom. 15:33

    “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

    Read these verses of scripture. If you have some more, read those as well. Feel free to post scripture in the comment section. Remember, though we all deal with certain degrees of fear and anxiety, press through and trust God. True faith, as I’ve said before, doesn’t eradicate difficulty, in weathers it. God knows what you and I need, and He has said He would meet those needs. So, don’t give up, and don’t let fear paralyze you. Lift up praise to God, and thank Him for what He’s doing in your life. Continue to pray for me, and I will for you. God bless, friends.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Kids Say the Darnedest Things

    Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT
    “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures.* You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 And a person who is living on milk isn't very far along in the Christian life and doesn't know much about doing what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.”

    I believe it was Bill Cosby that had a show out for a while which was entitled, “Kids Say the Darnedest Things”. Everyone watching would get a good laugh at the funny and cute things little kids would do and say. As a parent, I have found myself seemingly in a perpetual episode of that show, as I’m sure all parents have. I found myself thinking about some of the times when my kids said the darnedest things as I sat at work last night. One of those more recent times was a couple of weeks ago, as I sat at home one night, having just put my six and three and a half year old daughters to bed for the night. As I sat on the couch watching TV, I heard the familiar sound of the girls playing upstairs. Knowing the early waking time in my home, I sternly hollered up the stairs for the girls to quit playing and get back in bed. I was shocked (and quite amused) by what my younger daughter actually told me. “Daddy, you just be quiet!” I’ll just let you know, my little girl received a lesson in talking to Daddy like that, and she hasn’t since then. What makes kids say stuff like that? It’s just how they are. My kids have grown up in a home that honors Jesus Christ above all, so it’s neat when we hear them out of the blue start talking about God and Jesus. But just as they can talk about God, they can turn on a dime and start talking like my daughter spoke to me. It’s really just a child’s maturity level.

    We can get like that spiritually, can’t we? The Bible admonishes us in several places to “grow up”. Some places it’s said nicely, other places, like in our passage today, it’s much more direct. I know there are times in my personal walk with God that I am tempted to revert back to being a “baby Christian”, and begin to whine to God. Perhaps it’s those times when we’ve been praying and praying for God to do something, or give us something, and the answer is “no”. Maybe there are times when we find ourselves spiritually “pouting”, because things didn’t work out like we hoped they would. Maybe we’ve even taken a mouthy attitude toward the Lord when He has asked us to do something we don’t want to do, like pray for someone that has mistreated us. Let’s remember that the Bible tells us to put away childish things. We don’t see things too clearly right now. But, we can trust that the Lord sees all and knows exactly what we need, when we need it.

    I’m reminded of yesterday’s blog, about the disciples panicking in the storm. Immaturity in the things of God causes us to look only on what we see in front of us. But, just as the Lord knew exactly what was happening on that lake, so He knows exactly what is happening in our lives. Over and over, we are told in the Bible to “grow up”. True growth looks beyond our selfish reasoning, trusting that God knows best. So, let’s not be like my two-year old son, who for some strange reason has the urge to repeatedly try and explore the oven, and gets mad when Mommy stops him from opening the door. Mommy just knows what’s best. When God tells us no, just know that He knows best. God bless.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    The Other Side of Faith

    Mark 4:35
    And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

    I just read some articles by some of the more popular preachers. It seems from what some of these people preach that living for Jesus is nothing but roses. I do believe that God wants to bless us. He wants to give us abundant life. But that doesn’t mean that He won’t use hardship in our lives to mold us into what He desires us to be.

    We hear the passage above, and we give the Lord Jesus praise for being the “peace speaker”. And we should praise Him for calming storms in our lives. But notice what He said to His disciples after He calmed the storm. “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Come again, Jesus? Let’s flash back to what He initially said to the disciples. He said, “let us pass over to the other side” (v.35). They already had His word that they were going to make it. The storm was not calmed because of their great faith, it was calmed because of their lack of faith.

    How often do we encounter storms in our lives? This passage should give us comfort in knowing that on our journey, as we progress in our walk with Christ that storms will arise, but we will make it to the other side. True faith is not seen in calming the storm, it’s seen in weathering the storm. In the book of Hebrews, we all know of the “Hall of Faith”, the eleventh chapter. And in this chapter we read about some of the victories that faith brought to those who trusted God. But somewhere around the thirty-sixth verse, we begin to read about those who encountered severe storms. They were mocked, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in half (ouch!), and killed with the sword. Yet, all these had faith! They trusted God, in spite of their circumstances.

    True faith is not about living well, with no bumps in the road. True faith isn’t about money in the bank. It’s about trusting God-period. So hang in there with me, wait out the storms in your life, and let God mold you into the man or woman of God He has called you to be! God bless!

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Thumbs and Big Toes

    Judges 1:6-7
    Then Adoni-Bezek fled, and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 And Adoni-Bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me." Then they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.

    Have you ever thought about the uses of certain parts of the human body? Like, what is the appendix really for? Or, do we really need our pinky fingers? Do the eyebrows really serve a purpose? We can be assured that each part of our body has a God- ordained purpose. But try to imagine going through life having lost a part of the body that is essential, such as a leg or an arm.

    In the passage above, the Israelites had captured an enemy king, Adoni-Bezek, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. We find that this wicked king had done the same to those he had captured. As he had done, it was now done to him.

    What would this king’s purpose be in cutting off people’s big toes and thumbs? Really, it rendered them defenseless in battle. Without their thumbs, they could not hold on to the swords. And since the big toe plays a big part in walking, not having them made them pretty much immobile.

    So, what is the picture for us nowadays? We also have an enemy, and he’s not interested in your physical thumbs and toes. But he does want to incapacitate you. Just as the loss of the thumb for those ancient soldiers meant that they could not grip their swords, so the enemy wants to cause us to lose our grip on the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God. How does he do that? He will use our trials and hard times to cause us to doubt the Word. He also uses distractions and busyness to keep us from the Word.

    But he also wants to “cut off our toe”. Without the big toes, walking is severely hindered. The Devil wants to hinder our walk in Christ. He wants nothing more than to render us lame in our relationship with the Lord, by various temptations to sin, and by the cares of life. If he can keep us in sin, he can keep us in guilt in shame, and in so doing, keep us out of the presence of God.

    Remember friends, Satan wants to make you ineffective, because he knows that those who are truly sold-out, crucified Christians will cause the kingdom of darkness great harm. God bless.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Accepted in the Beloved!

    “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” Ephesians 1:6

    Before I get into the devotion today, please continue to pray for me concerning my post from yesterday, “A Little Weak Today”. I am still battling fear as I mentioned both in the original blog, and in the comments as people were reaching out with encouragement and prayers. But I am reaching through the fear and anxiety today to share what I believe God has placed on my heart.

    I was listening to an online sermon yesterday. I had heard this message before, but something this time really spoke to me. I won’t quote word for word what was preached, but I believe this is a message we all need to hear. It deals with God’s acceptance of us.

    How many of us have found ourselves on the wounded end of an offense? How many of us have maybe even told the offending party, “I forgive you, but I can’t trust you.” Or, “I forgive you, but I can’t have the same relationship anymore”. That is forgiveness without acceptance. I think that as Christians, there is a fear that sometimes lurks in the back of our minds that says, “Sure, God forgives me, but I’ve messed up too much to have the same relationship with Him”. It doesn’t make sense to us on a human level, because we have too hard a time doing that with each other. A wife may forgive her husband for adultery, but trust and acceptance is not an instant thing. But God accepts us immediately. He says to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). He tells us that we have “boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (see Heb. 10:19). He not only forgives us, He accepts us!

    I think of the Prodigal son. Here was a young man that insulted his dad by demanding his share of the inheritance. Basically, he told his dad that he couldn’t wait for him to die. He wanted his money ASAP! He went off and blew the cash, and found himself in poverty. While feeding hogs, he decided to go home, and try to have his dad hire him as a servant. As he was going home, his father saw him. The boy recognized the forgiveness in the hug and kiss. He knew that his dad had forgiven his sin. But what he did not expect was the ring, the robe, and the shoes. He didn’t expect the party, and the fatted calf. He did not expect to be accepted back as a son. But that was what he was, a son.

    Friends, no matter how we mess us, let us remember that God always accepts us. He gives us access to Himself. You may have wandered into the mire of the pigpen, but there are new shoes, a ring, and a robe of righteousness waiting for you! Your Father has accepted you! God bless.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    A Little Weak Today

    I hate doing this. My purpose from the beginning of this blog was to use it as tool to minister to those who happen to stumble across it. To give my brothers and sisters in Christ some encouragement, possibly when they most need it. Sometimes, that has happened right in the middle of a battle for me, when it seems hardest to reach out. Today is one of those days. I am in need of prayer.

    I often think of David during these times. Just a simple read into my archives of previous posts reveals that. But there is another person I think about, and even as I am writing this impromptu blog, he popped into my head. Elijah, the prophet of old. In his weakest, weariest hour he found himself just wanting to go home and be with the Lord. Everything seemed to be against him. As he was running for his life, he had all he could take, sat down under a tree and requested that he might die. Now, don't worry, I'm not wishing death on myself, but I feel like I'm at the end of my rope right now. I have a lot of things closing in on me, financially, I can't take care of any of them, except one.

    I know that God is faithful. I also know His timing is not our timing. And like the old song says, "He may not come when you want Him, but He'll be there right on time. He's an on-time God". It's in times like I'm in currently that God uses to test us. In the waiting. The acid test of time. He is purifying me through this time. He's preparing me through it. Please, friends, when you read this, pray for me. God Bless.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    James 2:14-17

    “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
    and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for {their} body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, {being} by itself.”

    As I was driving into work this morning, I was listening to the local Christian radio station. One of the hosts was talking about the book of James. I can’t remember what he talking about specifically, but it did get me thinking. I began to meditate on the above scriptures.

    There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this passage throughout the years. Some feel that the Bible actually contradicts itself here. After all, Paul taught us that salvation is by grace through faith, without works, and James taught that without works, faith is dead. A good reading of James shows us, however, that he was not teaching a works- based salvation. He was telling us that true faith should have vital signs.

    People can talk a good game. There are many that profess faith in Jesus Christ. James was telling us that those with “real faith” will be revealed by the outworking of that faith. He gave us the example, quoted above, of a destitute person, totally impoverished, with absolutely nothing. We are not to simply bless the person verbally, but to reach out and help them. That is what distinguishes “lip service” from the real deal. Even Paul told us that “faith worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Jesus also differentiates between merely professed faith and faith that shows itself. We all know the story of Matthew 25, when Jesus will at that day separate the sheep and the goats. “Insomuch as ye did unto the least of these my brethren, ye did unto me” (Mt. 25:40). If we are truly saved, then what we believe will be demonstrated by what we do.

    Take the time today to reach out to someone. Tell them about our wonderful Savior, and then show them Jesus through your actions. I pray that this blog blesses you today. Just another trip into the sometimes scary place called my head!

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Oct. 17, 2005 Part 2

    I've never posted 2 blogs in one day before. I just had to tonight. I don't know how many have experienced those strong moments when God simply arrests you, and tells you to pray. That is what happened to me an hour ago. I had laid my 2 year old son down on the couch to go to sleep, and settled down to listen to an online sermon. Suddenly, the urge to enter into intercessory prayer weighed me down. Now, I try to give my prayer life a high priority, and spend much of my time daily in an attitude of prayer, praise and worship, even while I'm working. But there are times when the Holy Spirit leads us to prayer. I don't even know what I was praying about, or who I was praying for. I began to cry out to the Lord, and started praying in tongues. Before long, I was groaning deeply. According to Romans 8:26, the Holy Spirit was praying through me- I simply did not have words to put to my prayer. I am exhausted. I can still sense the Spirit of the Lord.

    On another note, continue to pray for us as we begin to step out and plant a church. I've spent some time praying, seeking guidance from the Lord, and picking the brain of a good brother in Christ and friend who has stepped out and started a church. I've been brainstorming for ways to start the ministry up, and looking for an inexpensive location to meet at. I also spent some time talking with my pastor, and doing some brainstorming over the phone. God is leading us. Keep my wife and I in your prayers as we take this huge step. Thank you, and God bless!

    Oct. 17, 2005

    Dueteronomy. 22:8 "When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence."

    In my trip through the book of Deuteronomy, I came to the 22nd chapter today. While I've read some real spirit-provoking things, this stood out to me. The ancient Israelites had houses with flat roofs. For the safety of whoever may have needed to go up on the roof, the homeowner would build a low wall, or battlement, around the roof's perimeter. History says that it was probably 3 1/2 feet high. This really protected both the homeowner and whoever was up on the roof. You see, if someone still managed to fall off the roof with a retaining wall in place, it means he was more than likely being negligent, and the homeowner was not responsible for whatever may have happened. If, on the other hand, the owner of the house failed to put the wall up, he was responsible for whatever happened.

    How does this relate to us in the body of Christ? The bible tells us to not to look out for our ourselves only, but to look out for others as well. It also tells us to mind our weaker brother. Paul used the example of one who could eat meat without damage to his conscience, but abstained for the sake of his brother who felt it wrong. Don't cause your brother or sister in Christ to stumble. What are the "Romans 14" issues today? This is how we "build the wall". Remember, "but take heed, lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak" (1 Cor. 8:9). With this in mind, let us "build the wall" around the roof our lives, and so do well in protecting those around us.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    Oct. 14, 2005

    John 4:4-30

    I was challenged by something I read today. It was written by a preacher friend in his blog. To read his blog, Click Here. But what he spoke of was how we tend to chase after the material things of this world, only to find that there is no lasting fulfillment. Man, can I relate to that! I love "stuff". I have always loved video games. I can't help it, I'm part of the "Atari 2600" generation. There was always Pitfall or River Raid or some other game out there that I just had to play. And with the advances in gaming technology, what's coming out now is mindblowing. For years now, I've wanted an XBox. Every time the money was there to actually get one, something else of much greater importance came up. Finally, after years, my brother decided to let me use his, until he finishes his basement, and puts a home theater system down there. But you know what, I don't really care for it anymore. It wasn't the awesome experience everyone made it out to be. It now it just sits on my entertainment center collecting dust. How unfulfilling!

    I know, it's such a weak analogy. When there are people out there killing themselves to find purpose and meaning in life through empty pursuits such as business, possessions, or even hard core stuff like drugs and booze, my own pursuits seem so petty. But it reminds me of the woman at the well in John 4. Here was a woman who thought her answer was only to be found in the tangible. And even when Jesus pressed her for her lifestyle, she got religious and thought maybe the answer was there. But it wasn't about the tangible, whether water, or the right "place" to worship. Her need was the abiding presence of Christ in her life, His Spirit welling up inside her. Only He can satisfy the longing soul. And I love what she did next. Verse 28 says she "left her waterpot". She laid aside that which she thought would meet her need, because she found out that Christ alone had what she needed.

    Friends, lets allow Jesus have open access to our lives, and let Him drive out the sin and "stuff" that keeps us away from Him. If you read this, and you've never made Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior, open up your heart to Him. He died for you, so that through Him you can be forgiven of your sins. And He rose again by the Power of the Holy Spirit, and that same Spirit will well up in you as springs of living water. God bless.

    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Oct. 13, 2005

    "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" Hebrews 12:1

    Have you ever felt like you just can't make it? Have you felt like your entire world was collapsing in on top of you? If you haven't, hang on, and you will. That was what these Hebrew Christians felt like. They were under heavy persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ, and lived in constant fear of prison, torture, and even death. When the writer mentioned the "weight" that was holding them back, this was what he was talking about.

    As they were dealing with these fears and worries daily, they were starting to consider turning from Christ, and going back to Judaism. Tell, me, have you ever heard, or even said yourself, "life just seemed easier before salvation"? I'll be honest, I have. Not only were these folks saying that, they were seriously thinking about renouncing the faith that they held so precious. These fears were a major encumbrance to them, and it was causing some to turn from the path of uprightness.

    Let's fast forward to our day. I tell you, we can worry with the best of them. In much of the world today, many are still being killed for their faith in Christ. Here in America, we aren't facing that. Sure, we may take a ribbing from our co-workers, family and friends for our faith, but dying for Christ isn't really happening here. Yet fears still abound. You name, we experience it. Rising fuel costs, medical expenses going up, and job cuts only add to our stress. Worries of family neglect while trying to make ends meet keep us up at night. Wondering how the already late mortgage and car payments will be made weigh us down. And for you precious pastors, add the pressures of the church on top of it all.

    I love the illustration the writer uses. A runner in a race. That is what our walk with Christ is. Let me ask you, how many times have you ever seen a runner go the starting block in heavy sweat clothes, and work boots? My guess is never. No, they wear the lightest clothing they can. They put on the lightest running shoes possible. They don't want anything to hinder them as they race for the finish line. Yet, just like those Hebrews Christians, our fears and worries hold us back. Not only that, we are turning away from the path of righteousness, because we're just too bogged down.

    My friend, let me encourage you today. The scripture tells us to cast our burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain us (Ps. 55:22). Peter echoes this as well: "casting all of your cares upon Him; for He careth for you" (1 Pet. 5:7). Our Lord does not want us to go around constantly in fear. It sounds like a cliche, but give your burdens to Him. Let His peace guard your heart and mind. God has promised us that He will see this work that He has begun through to its completion. And He will supply for our every need in Christ. Look up, my friend, and focus your affection and attention on Jesus. Press on in this race toward the finish line! God bless.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Oct. 12, 2005

    1 Cor. 9:24-27 "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but {only} one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
    Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then {do it} to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
    Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
    but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

    I was thinking back to when I was a teenager. Coming from a divorced home, I spent weekends with my mom and stepdad. One of the things that I remember from my times spent there were the neighbors two doors down. They had a daughter my age who had the meanest underhand pitch I've ever seen. She pitched for her high school softball team. Every time I was there, on warm summer evenings, I would hear the smack of a high speed softball in a catcher's mitt. With her dad behind the plate, she would practice her pitch. Over and over again, she would whip an underhand softball faster than I could throw an overhand baseball! What made her the softball player that she was? The endless practice sessions.

    The apostle Paul at times would use the example of an athlete. Striving to win the race, and even boxing, being on target with the punches. That is what our life in Christ is like. But just as any athlete that is worth his salt, we must practice. Allow me to expound. A champ is not made on the field or track, but in the everyday workout. Champs are not made in the ring, as I heard one preacher say, they are only recognized there.

    We love those times where it seems that all of heaven has come to meet us, like in a service where the Holy Spirit is really moving and changing people. But that doesn't happen everyday! You have to go to get up on Monday morning to face life. You have received the blessing of God, now it's time to put it into practice. That means we go off to work, realizing that we aren't just doing enough to make the boss think we're working hard, but really working hard as to God. It's putting into practice our prayer life. It's singing and making music in our hearts to the Lord, in spite of how we feel. It's incorporating God's Word into our everyday existence. It's living life in the everyday for Him, knowing that He shows up in the everyday! Some of the most awesome times of witnessing for me have been outside the church, just making "the most of every opportunity".

    We all love to read Acts chapter 2. We rejoice at God's pouring out of the Holy Ghost. But the apostles couldn't live out their days in the upper room, they had to come down. And in chapter 3, we find them doing what they were supposed to do, going to the temple at the hour of prayer. And guess what? God showed up in their everyday! He healed a man who was crippled from birth! He will show up in our everyday, too. Use your today and everyday to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! God bless.