Sunday, November 30, 2008

Growning Pains

Come on now. You know you watched it. You ladies, especially you ladies in you late 20's to early 30's watched it just to swoon over Kirk Cameron (I don't know why!). I'm talking about Growing Pains. It was a good show that dealt with family life with kids coming of age. They all made their share of mistakes, they had their downfalls and problems, they had their good times, too. I have to admit, I kind of liked that show, though it would be hard to get me to admit it in a crowd of friends.

But, with me learning how to run the office and the finances at this church, it seems to fit. I'll be the first to admit I've made a couple mistakes. Nothing too bad, but embarrassing. One of my responsibilities is putting together the monthly newsletter. It's a big job, but one I'm somewhat qualified to do, as I love to write. It requires editing and sometimes re-wording what ministry heads write for their spot. But, even with a couple set of eyes on it, stuff gets by. And this month, my first month doing it, some stuff got by, including the accidental exclusion of the Men's Ministry. Suffice it to say, I got a little red-faced over that one!

It's all part of learning, isn't it? I'll get it down soon enough, I know. But even the Lord's Apostles had some growing pains. I'm in the good company of people like Peter, who after a powerful revelation of who Christ is, rebuked Him for announcing that He was to die a horrid death on Calvary. "Get behind Me, Satan!" Ouch, that one had to hurt! Then there was James and John, the "Sons of Thunder". Jesus gave them that nickname personally. When they witnessed the Samaritans reject the Lord, they became indignant. They must've thought of Elijah on Mount Carmel, because they asked Jesus, "Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" I wish I could have seen the look on Jesus' face that day. He rebuked them, he didn't come to destroy people. He came to give life.

Then there was Thomas. He gets a bad rap from us Bible readers today. After the Lord had risen, He appeared to the disciples, and the were amazed. But Thomas wasn't there. When the others told him about what had happened, all he said was, "Unless I touch His scars and put my hand in His side, I won't believe it!" When Jesus came some days later, He looked for Thomas, and said these words:

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29

Yet, I don't see where Jesus cast any away or got fed up with them. He was patient with them. He knew what they would do one day, and He taught them through those times of mistakes and issues. He does the same with us today. I praise Him for that.

That wasn't too deep, but I pray it blesses someone. Whatever you are going through, let the Lord show you His way, and you will come out all the better.

God Bless!

Friday, November 28, 2008


Check out that picture. That is a panoramic view shot at Yosemite National Park. Here is the fact that boggles my mind-it was shot with a 17-gigapixel camera! Click here to go to the website, where you can see the zoom-able picture in such amazing detail and depth that you can see people on the mountain in the picture's center. The detail is so mind-boggling that you can see what color clothes those people are wearing!

I did a little research, and I found out what a gigapixel is. I have a 5 megapixel camera at home. 1 megapixel is 1,000,000 pixels. 1 gigapixel is 1 billion pixels, so that means a 17-gigapixel camera is 17 billion pixels! I can't even imagine how these are made! How do you place the hardware? And how do you come up with something so detailed that you can see what color pants someone is wearing that is miles and miles away? If mere man can come up with this stuff, it absolutely floors me to think of how big God is!

I get great comfort from some passages in the Bible that speak of just how great God is. One of them is Isaiah 40-

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?...Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

Imagine that! The hollow of the hand was just a cupped hand. God is so big, he can fit all the earth's water in his hand! The span of the hand was the distance between a man's thumb and pinky finger. God simply put his hand up and said, "The universe is this big"! Isaiah went on to say that the each nation on this planet is a drop in the bucket, and is like dust on the scales. How many of us go to the deli to get our ham or cheese, and first ask the person helping us to wipe the dust off the scale so we don't get overcharged? C'mon, for real, who would do that? That little bit of dust doesn't even register! That is how the nations are to God!

In Psalm 147:4, the psalmist said this:

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.

That doesn't sound too big if the only stars you know are seen in NYC. Even on a clear night away from light pollution, the stars aren't innumerable. But that's just with the naked eye. God created more than just those stars we can see, after all. And scientists estimate that the number of stars is 10 to the 24th power. That is a 1 with 24 zeros after it! I can't fathom a number that big. Yet, God knows each and every star. But the real shock for me is that that passage says that God gave names to each one! Billions and billions of stars, and God knows each stars name! I have a hard enough time with the names of my 4 kids! "Machaela, stop that!" "I'm not Machaela, I'm Timmy!" In theological terms, this is called God's transcendance. Simply put, it speaks of how huge God really is. It speaks of how far above His creation He is. It transcends human understanding.

But God also in these passages speaks of his immanence. This speaks to the fact that God is inside his creation. Now, that doesn't mean that God is everything, as Hindus believe. It means that God is with us. Sure, He's big enough to create this vast universe, but cares enough about us that He gets right in the middle of our lives! That alone surpasses my mind. God is interested in me! It reminds me of another psalm-

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?(Psalm 8:3,4)

Wow, this God who is so far above us cares enough for us to get right in the middle of our lives. He climbs into your problems, you cares, your worries. I'm reminded of what Jesus did at the tomb of Lazarus. That's when he commanded the stone to be moved on a 4-days dead guy. It stank, but Jesus isn't afraid to go where it stinks. He raised up Lazarus, and showed us the unmatched power he has. And he'll get into your stink, and he'll work his miracles for you!

So, the next time you look at the night sky, imagine just how big God is. But remember that He wants to fit Himself into your life! The God who made everything loves you. Simply amazing to me!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, it's finally here. Thanksgiving Day! I got up about 7:30, got the turkey in the oven at about 8, and we had everything finished and eaten by 3:30. Dinner, anyway. That photo is one I took just before devouring the feast.

That picture also shows some good things that I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for my family. Of course, there's one more kid, my youngest, who refused to be in the picture. I'm thankful for my wife, too, but if I post her picture that I took today, she'll kill me! These people that God has put in my life bless me every day. Sure there are days that I want to pull my hair out for dealing with the shinanigans, but I really am blessed. It makes me think of all the good things God does for me.

I am in good health today. I have a roof over my head and transportation. There is food in my fridge (especially today's leftovers!). I'm no where near rich, but God is providing all I need. My family and I are blessed and prospering! I thank the Lord for his many blessings.

The Bible speaks much on being thankful. There were certain sacrifices in the Old Testament Law that were Thanksgiving Offerings. After times of victory and blessing, God's people would offer up thanksgiving for what the Lord had done. David displayed a thankful heart in 2 Samuel 7. Check it out:

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD; and he said: "Who am I, O Lord GOD? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?

David had been on the throne for a while at that point. God had given him victory and blessed him tremendously. So, one day, David probably just walked around and looked at how God had blessed him. He decided that he wanted to bless God. He wanted to build the Lord a temple, so the Ark wouldn't have to stay in a tent. The prophet Nathan affirmed David's desire, but then God stopped him, and told him that David was not to build a temple. His son would. Then that is where God decided to reveal just how he would bless David. David wasn't to build God a house, but God would build David a house-he would always have a decendant on the throne!

David probably struggled to find the words to express his thanks to God for his blessing. I know I would. All he could say was, "Who am I?" Just like that Casting Crowns song that asks, "Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth, would care to know my name...?"David was humbled in God's exaltation of him! (That will humble you when you realize how God has lifted you up!)

David must have flashed back to his early days in the sheepfold. Night and day, he'd watch over his dad's sheep, unnoticed by people, but seen by the Lord. When his own dad wrote him off as unimportant, God chose him. He was everything a king wasn't supposed to be. He was the youngest son. He was just a kid. He was a dirty shepherd. He probably wasn't 90 pounds soaking wet. But God took him from the sheepfold to throne.

Yeah, David had a lot to be thankful for. So do we! Think of what God has done for you. Just this afternoon, I picked up the latest CD from Casting Crowns, The Altar and the Door. As one song played, called "Slow Fade", I thought about the pits God has pulled me from, starting with salvation, to the times I wandered like a sheep and got stuck in the ditches of sin. Immediately, I began to tear up as I thought about how good the Lord Jesus has been to me. He pulled me from my sins, filled me with his Spirit, gave me my family, and called me into the ministry of the Gospel!

So, what do you have to be thankful for today?

God bless!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Apple Pie and Soft Pretzels

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and I'm enjoying cooking. I just finished the crumb top apple pie, and my wife is starting to make the potato salad. Then she'll cook the sweet potato pie, and prepare the cornbread stuffing. Then I'll get up at about 5 or 6, get the turkey in the oven, and kick back with a hot pot of coffee.

I decided to experiment with flour and yeast. I am waiting for some dough to rise, and I'm going to make a batch of soft pretzels. I'll let you know if it comes out good.

Well, I'll try to post something tomorrow with more substance. God bless!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Time Out!

It's Thanksgiving week. That means it's one busy week! At the church things are really hopping, with the church newsletter deadline quickly approaching. Then there's edits in the membership logs, due by month's end. I still have to print off and cut the weekly bulletin for Sunday, get some much needed filing done, and make one more bank run. Add to this the fact that the office is running on a skeleton crew (me and another guy!), I'm doubling as the receptionist, and the week ends for us Wednesday, I'm running crazy.

How many of you can relate? I thought I was busy working a full time job and being a part-time youth pastor. Now that I'm a full-time associate pastor at a big church, I'm running from sunup to sundown. While I'm grateful that God opened a door to do this ministry, I'm ever grateful for a chance to slow down and get some quiet time!

Spiritually, we need this. I'm not just talking to pastors, I'm talking to moms and dads, employers and employees, to anybody with a pulse and a life. We get our lives and our schedules so full that we have no choice but to run nonstop till we either collapse from sheer exhaustion, or get sick and have to rest. In fact, we find that there are some our our Biblical heros of the faith that had to take time to get alone and pray, spending time with God undistracted. Just flip through your Bible, check out the story of Moses. 2 Million people sure know how to drain a guy. He spent weeks at a time in God's presence. I think of David, who needed to get alone with the Lord after he found the town of Ziklag had been pillaged and burned, and his and his men's families kidnapped. While his small militia panicked and even spoke of stoning David, he got alone with God and "encouraged himself in the Lord".

But I don't think we could have any greater example than that of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. I am just trying to put myself in his place, and it boggles my mind! Here was a man who had multitudes chasing after him constantly, all needing something from him. He had to deal with some rather hard-headed disciples every day. Then there were the Pharisees and Saducees that constantly grilled him looking down their noses at him. And this is all added on top of the knowledge that he was there on the planet with the purpose of dying the most brutal, tortureous deaths known. Can anybody say "stress"?

No wonder we read occasionally where Jesus had to sneak off to get some alone time with his Father. He needed a time out! While Jesus was fully God, let's remember that he was also fully human, and he dealt with human emotions and frustrations just like the next guy. Surely, with the issues he had hanging over his head, the Lord can understand the impending deadline on that make-or-break project at work. Certainly Jesus understands the bills that need paying, the kids that need doctors, the soccer games that need playing, the sermons need preaching. Add cooking dinner to that (maybe it's a pizza after a day like I've had!). Check out this verse in Hebrews 2...I pray that it gives you as much comfort as it does me.

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.(vs. 17)

I like that. That passage tells me that Jesus isn't my halfway high priest. He isn't even my 2/3 of the way high priest. I'd be happy if that was all he gave us! But that passage says that he had to be made like his brethren! He came to this corrupt planet, put on skin like us, and he faced life like the rest of us-and he came out on top! And because of Jesus, we can too! Hebrews says elsewhere that human priests understood what other people went through. They are all human. Guess what? Jesus is human, too, and he also knows what a rough ride being human can be! Only Jesus can do something about it. He gives us his Spirit, that he happened to call our helper!

So, whatever you're passing through now, let me encourage you to do the one thing that will give you the strength to make it-get alone with the Lord and let him touch you like only he can! Take a time out!

God bless!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Friday

No, I don't have my calender confused. I had a pretty good Friday today. I made it in the office about 8 to do some work on the church newsletter, and print off and cut the Sunday bulletin. I did some accounting, then I was off to lunch.

That's where it got fun. I met up with a couple of my internet buddies for the first time. It was good to have some fellowship with Neil Smith, and Brandon Bowers. We were joined by another pastor from Winter Haven who is preparing to go to Kenya next week for 20 days. We had great conversation. I was blessed to spend so time with them.

Now I'm back at the office, working some more on the newsletter, since I finished up the bulletin. Now I just want to get home and spend some time relaxing with my family. I'll try to post something devotional this weekend. It will be our first Sunday back at Abundant Life since I've joined the staff. I'm looking forward to this season in our life and ministry. And I get to play guitar on worship team! I'm stoked!

Have a good Friday, too.

God bless!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Wednesday Back

Tonight is our first Wednesday back at Abundant Life. I was officially released from Kissimmee on Monday, so now we are all set in Lakeland. It's good to be back, this time doing ministry full time!

Today was a fun day, though. It started out at 5 AM like any other normal day. I fought the sleep to get up, made up the kid's lunches, got showered and dressed, and had some Frosted Mini-Wheats. After fixing up my hair, I went out into the living room, and that is when my younger girl, Gabbie, left a barf trail from the kitchen to the couch. Eeew. The poor thing had been feeling a bit sickly, and this was the wonderful culmination of it. After mopping it and having her get her PJs back on, we all climbed in the van. School was out for her, so she laid on a mat with her pillow, and drew pictures. She began to turn around, and I'm happy to report that at about 4:30, she seems all better.

I'm still trying to figure out what to do about my broken down van. I found out that I qualify for an auto loan. I applied online last night, and today got a call from Suzuki of Orlando about a loan. I don't know the rate yet, but I was told I qualify for a new car loan. We'll see. My credit is shot due to the foreclosure in Michigan. Man, they'll give anyone a loan these days.

Anyway, I'm pumped to be back in Lakeland. I have my guitar with me and ready for practice. I'll be jamming tonight with my old bandmates I played music with months and months ago before going to Kissimmee.

I thank God, and Pastor John for the many blessings I got in Kissimmee. I miss them already. I pray that God pours his favor out on that great church. If you read this, John, I'm praying. Oh, and I cut my long hair off. You'll see when I get back there to visit you all.

God bless!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fitting In

A couple of months back, I took on the task of giving my minivan a much needed tune-up. New plugs, new wires, and a new ignition coil pack. What a job! It wasn't fun, all because I made a pretty serious mistake. After putting on a new coil, I had to put on the new spark plug wires. This is a very important job, because the wires need to be on in the proper firing order. After I put on the wires, patting myself on the back for a job well done, I fired up the engine. That is when it all broke loose!

It started rough. I figured it just for bugs in the system that would be corrected by the onboard computer. That's when the check engine light not only came on, but actually started flashing at me! I'm not even joking! Then, the engine sputtered out and died. I would be understating it to say I was freaking out. After trying several other combinations on the coil posts, I gave up out of frustration. I went to bed, and the next morning, I decided to use the old, numbered wires. All ended well.

Just like those wires, we try to find a place to serve, and oftentimes we end up doing more damage than good because we just weren't made for that call. Nothing like the wrong person to misfire a ministry! It happens in the secular world, too. How many good people took a job they just couldn't handle, even thinking they would learn the job, only to fall on their face and cause more trouble than good? I've done this in ministry, and gave myself a real headache of a time. Thank the Lord that my experiences only frustrated me, and didn't do any real damage. There have been other times I've tried to fit into spots God never intended to put me, but I'll stop there.

In my read in 2 Samuel, I got to the sixth chapter, and came across a familiar, yet shocking account. It's the story of a guy named Uzza. Here was this man, gladly serving the Lord and his king, David. The Ark of God had been away from its place for some years, first with the Philistines who captured it, then in a couple Israelite homes. Finally, David decided that it was time to bring the Ark back to its rightful place. It was a big deal. It was a time of celebration. It was a time of worship and high praise. But it turned sour real quick.

David had his men placed the Ark on a cart-mistake number one. Moses had given very detailed info on how the Ark was to be transported. That was on stakes threaded through loopholes on the side of it, and carried on the shoulders of the priests. David did what the Philistines had done years before, that is, place the Ark on a cart and tow it with animals.

As they marched on to the resting spot of the Ark, something bad happened (always happens like that, eh?). The oxen that were pulling the cart got a bit too rough, and they shook the Ark so that it wobbled and started to fall. That is when Uzza committed mistake number two. He reach out and grabbed a hold of the Ark to steady it and keep it from falling. At the time it surely seemed like the right thing to do. After all, we can't let the one thing that God used to represent His Presence fall and get all dirty, right? Too bad for Uzza that God didn't agree. He struck poor Uzza dead right there. Why? Was it really that bad of a sin to "help" God out? Uzza's problem is that he didn't stay in his place. Like Saul before him, who took for himself the duties of a priest and sacrificed, handling the Ark wasn't Uzza's job. Only the priests could deal with the Ark, and even they probably couldn't touch it with their hands. The trouble that day could have been avoided if everyone had just followed God's plan. But, when we step out of line and try to do what God hasn't called us to do, we cause problems. Actually, the best thing that Uzza could have done would have been to let the Ark fall on the ground-it was the only thing doing what it was supposed to! It was being the ground, just what God made it to be.

Uzza's actions didn't just affect him. Perhaps a family lost a daddy and a husband that day. David probably lost a good man. David himself did things wrong, and his decision that day cost a good man. Lesson learned for the king: do it God's way. The next time David tried to bring back the Ark, he did right. The priests carried it the way God said, and everyone was happy.

Am I saying that God will strike you down if you try to do something He hasn't called you to? Most likely not. God is patient, and in this age of grace, he will show you where you belong. But, while God judged with severity in Old Testament times, serving where you belong is still just as important nowadays. I can't tell you how much trouble, turmoil and heartache can be caused by the wrong man in the wrong spot.

So, if you are seeking out the will of God, and searching for that spot He has for you, keep praying. Keep working, and He will place you where he needs you.

God bless!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A New Chapter

Today officially ended a chapter in our family's life. Today was our last day as the youth pastors at Living Waters in Kissimmee. Though I started officially in the office at Abundant Life last week, I now am about to dive in headlong, 100%. I am serving as an associate pastor, and handling the financial things, running Quickbooks, doing payroll and membership things. I'm also handling the monthly newsletter and weekly bulletins.

We still have to sit down and work out pastoral duties, but I'll be doing some outreach, and do I ever have ideas!

Life is full of "new chapters". The Bible gives us several examples of people who had a call from God, and had to walk away from something to fulfill it. I take comfort it that, because it can be a stressful time when you leave something familiar to venture into territory that you've never been to. I think of people like Abraham leaving the familiar and following after God to Canaan. I think of Jacob, after 20 years of serving his uncle, took his family and left when God said it was time. Then there was Elisha, whom Elijah found plowing in his dad's field with 12 oxen. Elijah tossed his cloak on him, and Elisha immediately knew what was happening. He killed the oxen, and cooked them up. He had a feast with his family eating the animals he'd work with. Why? He wanted nothing to go back to.

But my favorite "new chapter" story isn't found in the Old Testament, it's right there in the Gospels. Jesus, though he is God's son, grew up with Joseph as his guardian and step dad. He learned Joseph's trade, carpentry, and that was he did until he about 30. Then one day, Jesus knew that it was time. He went out to where his cousin, John the Baptist was. He was baptizing people in the Jordan River. Jesus walked into the water, and asked John to baptize him. John, knowing that he was the Messiah, objected to baptizing him, but Jesus said it was necessary. So John dunked him.

Why did Jesus need to be baptized? Sinners got baptized. Gentiles wishing to convert to Judaism got baptized. But Jesus? He had no sin to repent of. Maybe he was identifying with his people. But I want to focus on another idea. I think he was partly marking a new chapter in his life. He had been the carpenter. He made tables and chairs. Maybe he built houses and fixed them up. But those hands that once would make new furniture would soon make blind eyes see. Those hands would heal the lame. They would raise the dead. And, ultimately, those hands would be pierced on an old, rugged cross to make sinful humans new!

The Jordan marked it off. Significant life changes are "Jordan moments". We have those times when what we are used to, what's familiar to us has to move out, so we can go on to what lies next in God's plans for us. Mine now is crossing the line between Osceola and Polk counties, as I move on from Kissimmee to Lakeland.

Yeah, these times can be fearful. But, when we look at that great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) from the Bible, it's more comforting to read their stories and know that if they made it, so will I. So press on to the Jordan, friends. Don't be afraid to face that new territory. God is with you!

God bless!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Listen to Your Heart (NOT!)

I think every Christian at some point can identify with what I about to say. I have been in the school of hard knocks several times. That is a school I think I've flunked out of before. Shame on me. But let me tell you a story of a lesson I got loud and clear from my time in that wonderful institution.

Many of us, unless we were born to Bill Gates or some other uber-rich person, know about tough financial messes. I'm no exception. I've been in some tight situations in my day. Some have turned out good, others haven't. Let me talk about the latter.

It's real tempting to stop tithing when in difficult situations. To think of that money going to pay for that bill, or whatever, is tough to overcome when desperate. To my shame, I've let myself do it, though. And I found something out. It doesn't bode well to do so. I've allowed it happen, and seen things simply fall apart financially because I decided that God wasn't big enough to help me out. I decided that I had to come up with solutions all by myself. You'd think I would have learned when my ideas and plans came crashing down around me. Yet, I'd let the pattern continue. Finally, out of desperation, I'd cry out to God, repent and do it His way.

The same holds true for every area of obedience in life. God calls us to obey Him. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is replete with commands to obey the Lord: "If you obey the commandments of the Lord..."; "We must obey God rather than man...", and so on. Sadly, the Bible is also full of examples of those who walked in disobedience. I have a sad one in mind that I just read about in my trip through 1 Samuel. this comes from the 27th chapter:

"Then David said in his heart, 'Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.'"

David is called by God "a man after my own heart". God's own testimony is that David has God's heart. He loved God. He was the sweet psalmist of Israel. He would sing, dance and worship God with his whole heart. Yet, like the rest of us sinful humans, he allowed fear to creep in and it spoiled him. He walked out of God's will that day when he ventured into Philistine country. He took his problems into his own hand, and decided that God wasn't big enough to take care of him. God, who so far had a perfect record of protecting David from Saul was now being replaced by a mere human, ungodly king. (Imagine how God felt!) And so David left the land of promise, and sought refuge in the land of idols.

David was in Philistine territory for more than a year. And what a dark year of life it must have been for him. Out of fellowship with God, cut off from his fellow Jews, it must have been miserable. And beyond that, David lived life as robber and marauder. He would pillage the towns and cities of Israel's enemies, killing everyone, and stripping the bodies of anything valuable. And, to make matters worse, he'd lie to the king of the Philistines about it, saying he'd pillaged his fellow Israelites, making himself look better to the king. With no people left alive to tattle him out, he was free to keep us his murderous ways.

David's life was an out-of-control downward spiral for that year and four months. Finally, when he had sown the seeds of destruction, it all came back and bit him. While he was out pillaging, he himself got pillaged. He was living with his family and his 600 men (and their families) in the walled city of Ziklag. The Amalekites showed up when all the men were gone, kidnapped their wives and children, robbed them blind and burned the city. When David and his posse returned, they saw the city destroyed and everyone gone. They were understandably shaken and distraught. They even thought to kill David for the mess he brought everyone into. Sin has a way of doing that. You think that you are affecting only yourself, but you burn others, like spouses, kids and parents. Perhaps David learned a valuable lesson-as you sow, so shall you reap.

It took a major hit to finally get through to him, but it did the trick. David ran to God. He cried out to him. The Bible doesn't say what went on in his heart, but I'm sure he did some repenting. Then he asked God for help, and God heard him. He chased after the bandits that got them, and God allowed him to recover everything unhurt.

When we don't do things God's way, there is a price to be paid. I don't care what it is. You may be holding back the tithe, or you may be cheating on your spouse. Be sure your sin will find you out. God will allow you to reach a point that you are at the end of yourself, so that you can find Him. The good news is that you are never too far from God's hand. The Bible says in Isaiah 59:1 that God's hand is not too short to save. But you have to be willing to turn from your sin and trust him again.

I learned that lesson on tithing. I have found that God is faithful to those who obey him. Times haven't always been easy, and I've experienced some loss. But I've had the peace of God in my spirit that told me everything was going to be alright! Hallelujah!

Won't you trust the Lord today with your situation? It's time to walk in obedience, and see what God will do.

God bless!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Long, boring day

It's been a long, boring day. Our receptionist is out sick, so I've had to be the receptionist today. I answered the phone the few times it rang, and did some writing that the job requires. I'm glad it does, since it keeps my writing juices flowing.

Got to hang a bit with some of the other preachers on staff, the 2 that were here. It's been a very quiet day. I spent a good amount of time talking to Fred, and enjoying his stories. Fred is our church custodian, and he is such an awesome guy. He'll bend over backwards for you. Such a cool guy with a powerful testimony. I may share it someday.

Well, the day is finally over for me. I get to go home. Friday is technically a day off, but I'll be in to work on the Sunday Bulletin for a while. Casual day for me!

God bless!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Free Coffee

Today I went to kill some time at Starbucks with a cup of their Thanksgiving Blend and some time reading the Bible. I walked in, ordered the coffee and pulled out my wallet to pay when the barista stopped me. Since the coffee had not yet been brewed, today's cup was on the house! Praise God! The only thing better than a hot cup of Starbucks is a free hot cup of Starbucks! I sat down and waited for the coffee, and started reading in 1 Samuel 25. More that that later. My coffee was hand-delivered to me in the corner I chose, and I thought about God's goodness and favor.

A couple days ago, my landlord stopped by to pick up the rent. I told him that we were going to have to move back to Lakeland, as I am now on the job at Abundant Life Church here. Since we are going to have to break our lease early, he technically can't give us our security deposit back. But I do believe that God's favor shined on us, because he is letting us stay next month for free! When I pay, I pay for that month, so I paid for Novemeber. That means I have the rest of this month to save, and all of December. That will give us 2 months rent, or our first month in a new house, plus the security deposit. Praise God!

God is good to his people, in the big things like shelter and food, and even in the little things like a free cup of Starbucks. Check out what the Word says in Psalm 84:11:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Who would have thought I'd find the blessing of God in a cup of Starbucks?

God bless!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saying Goodbye is Tough

Well, for the past eight or nine months, I’ve been serving on staff at Living Waters Church of God. I hired in as the Outreach Pastor, but after a couple of months I was reassigned to Youth Pastor. So, for the past six months, I’ve been serving there, and seen God move and really touch these kids. We’ve seen our share of struggles and even a bit of ugly attacks, but God has blessed us.

Then, out of the blue, something happened. I got offered a full time position in Lakeland, where I’ll serve as an associate pastor and office administrator. I start in the office tomorrow, and be there officially for Sundays on the 23rd or this month. I’m excited about what God is doing!

But that means someone inevitably will be saddened by the news. Indeed, some are. It was announced last Sunday that we are leaving the church. I was almost immediately confronted by a sad teen. My wife talked to a couple teens before service that saw the announcement in the bulletin. So it makes the whole thing kind of bittersweet.

On the one hand, I have poured myself into these kids, often not knowing if I was really making a difference. I saw signs from time to time, like kids reaching out to visiting teens, and telling them about our youth services. But, it didn’t really hit me that I was important until I saw the sadness in them. It reminds me of when Paul called for the elders of the Ephesian church for the last time. Check it out:

“And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again...And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” Acts 20:25;37-38

The Bible goes on to say that the when Paul finished his address to the elders, that they wept, mostly because they would never see his face again this side of heaven. I wonder if Paul may have felt what I am. I wonder if he really realized that he had really made a difference.

Nearly two years ago, the pastor of the church in Lakeland was pastoring in Ypsilanti, MI. He announced on a Sunday morning that he was resigning and moving to Lakeland, FL. The church was crushed. They loved this pastor. The state overseer came that night to take a vote for the new pastor, and while there, he said these words that have stayed with me. He was glad to see that the church was sad, because it meant they loved the man who was leaving. That is why I am somewhat glad that the church and the teens are sad, because it means they love me. It means I did some good while I was there. I don’t want them to dwell on me, but at least I know I been effective. It would be bad if they decided to party because they finally got rid of me!

Well, tomorrow begins a new chapter for me. Pray for me as I step out into the will of the Lord!

God bless!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Men As Trees...

Special thanks to my pastor for bringing this thought back to my mind!

I see them all over the place around my area. On street corners, shopping center driveways, or exit ramps, hardly a day passes without seeing a homeless person. They may be hoping for just a little food, a little cash, even work. And, even for a Spirit-filled Christian, it's really easy to just let these people fade into the scenery of the city. We make excuses, we ignore them, or we blame them for their own problems. But one thing I can't get past is that these are not faceless beings, but real people, created in the image of God. These are people for whom Christ died.

This morning, as my pastor preached about bringing in the harvest, he mentioned a curious passage in Mark chapter 8, in which Jesus actually laid hands on a blind guy two times. Check it out:

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, but they look like trees, walking."
Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Mark 8:22-25

When Jesus did this miracle, he may not have had in mind the homeless. Perhaps he was making a deeper spiritual point. But I think the what the Lord did illustrates what my point today is. Too many who have felt the hand of the Lord need another touch by him. We look around and see the homeless, the hurting, and we walk away. They become faceless entities that fade into the landscape. We see them, but we can't see them for who they are-real people that the Lord died for.

You know, Jesus said that when the end has come, and he is doling out rewards to his people, he will first separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep he blesses because of their care for those in need, and the goats he rebukes and condemns for their lack of concern. I don't want to find myself standing before the Lord Jesus at the end and find out just how calloused I was. I want to do everything I can to bless the Lord be blessing them now.

Let's look for those opportunities to be the Lord's hand in these precious peoples lives. I'm not talking about money, but simply helping those who need it.

God bless!