hipster_xmas

What’s wrong with a Hipster Christmas Anyway?

If you haven’t seen this Hipster Nativity Set, it’s a real product for sale. It’s so popular that even with a pricey $129.99 price tag, they are flying off the shelves, and limited to three to a customer.

The set takes the traditional nativity figures and gives them a distinctly hipster form. Joseph has a man-bun and is taking a selfie. Mary is holding a Starbucks latte in one hand, making a peace sign with the other, is dressed in a sweater that is off one shoulder and is of course making a duck-face for a selfie.

The Magi are arriving on Segways with Amazon gift boxes under their arms. The shepherd is working his iPad. The sheep and cow are even involved: the sheep is wearing a hand-knitted sweater and the cow, eating gluten-free feed, bears a “100% organic” seal.

If you’re not hip to the Hipster vibe, let me explain…Hipsters are ‘cooler-than-you’ because of their independent thinking, counter-culture attitude, appreciation of art & indie rock and their ironic clothing choices.

Listen, I find this whole Nativity Set hysterical and eerily accurate. (I would love one as a Christmas gift…hint, hint) It’s a satire on how far out of control our lives are. BUT why does this Nativity upset so many of my Christian friends?  I truly don’t believe it’s meant to disrespect the holy family or Christmas.  It’s mean to be funny.

I think what upsets so many people is, that it’s too true!

We have the pressure to get the right gift from Amazon, to keep up with the latest organic and fair trade trends, upgrade to the newest ‘must have’ technology and capture all of it in a selfie on our new phone.

None of these things are wrong but be careful not to overspend (another blog for another time) and not miss the meaning of Christmas.

Before you think I’m an old fart, getting on the young hipsters, there are many ways to miss the meaning of Christmas.

When asked the meaning of Christmas, the most common response is ‘spending time with loved ones’.  While I think that’s important, the meaning of Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth.  How do you do that?  Start by reminding yourself of the story of the first Christmas.  One way to do that is at church.

You’re invited to recapture the meaning of Christmas at House of Praise in person or on-line: NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com

Check out the website for time and direction.

Oh, and have a Happy Hipster Christmas, just remember Jesus in the midst of it.

Captain America HOPE BACKDROP

Hope for This Election

MAX LUCADO, pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas said this:

We are really ready for this presidential election to be over. We’re ready for an end to the rancor and tackiness. Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all. There is a visceral fear, an angst about the result. What if so and so wins? When we wake up to Nov. 9, post-election, when the confetti is swept away and the election is finally over, what will we see?

I have a prediction. I know exactly what Nov. 9 will bring: another day of God’s perfect sovereignty. He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has his providence depended on a king, president or ruler. And it won’t on Nov. 9, 2016. “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases” (Prov. 21:1).

Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace. When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can then choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands, we bend our knees and we select prayer over despair.

I couldn’t agree more Max.

Christians shouldn’t panic. We should vote, participate, demonstrate, boycott, protest, whatever legal political activities we wish to take.  However, we must not panic because God is in charge.

Having said that, here some things we should remember…

Never compromise your Christianity over politics.

Never, never, never give up influence unnecessarily. Never jeopardize a relationship, especially over politics.  Allow people to disagree and still be your friends.  Don’t sin by slandering political leaders, calling people names, swearing or losing your temper.  Keep your behavior consistent with a manner that would please God.

We will be disappointed but don’t sit this one out.

I have no idea who will win the election. But I know this: no matter who you vote for, you will be disappointed.

Think of some of these things: Benghazi, Locker room talk, missing emails, tax return, bullying…scandal.  Whether you walk behind a donkey or an elephant, you’re going to step into some unpleasant stuff.

If your candidate loses, you’ll be disappointed after Election Day. If yours wins, you’ll be disappointed after Inauguration Day.

We must vote because Evangelical Christians are the most important voting block in America.

John 8:32 – “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – vote truth.

Truth is not objective, it’s absolute. 3+3=6 no matter how we feel about it.  Gravity is absolute.  You can sincerely not believe in gravity but when you jump, you will still hit the ground.  Truth is not subjective, it’s not personal.  Truth does not come from within but outside ourselves. God is truth and the author of truth.

There are a few moral issues we as Christians should agree upon as moral truths. The right to life. I can’t believe we have to discuss a person’s right to exist but the right to life is a moral absolute.  The definition of marriage.  One man, one woman in a monogamous relationship.  This is defined by scripture.  Please consider these truths as you vote.

A side note about Intolerance:

Let me say something about being a loving church that shows God’s love to ALL people.  In America today, we have elevated tolerance to be an absolute truth. Tolerance today says we must accept people’s beliefs as truth.  If I disagree with something that’s actually isn’t true, but based upon another person’s feelings, somehow that’s intolerant.

Love says we treat ALL people with respect…not mocking, not judging but truly loving people who are actively sinning.  Love also tells the truth. If I see you using heroin, I will tell you that going to hurt you and offer to take you to a rehab. That’s not intolerance or hatred.

Our Hope is in Jesus

No candidate can fulfill all the hopes and dreams we have for our nation.

So, yes, we need to vote. Vote wisely and prayerfully. But don’t put your hope there. Don’t put our hope in a candidate, a party or even a system.  Put your hope in Jesus. You’ll never be disappointed that way.

Neither this election nor any election, neither Trump nor Clinton, will encourage my hope or discourage my hope in the Sovereign King and His Kingdom. I will go to bed the night of the election and I will wake up the day after the election with the same hope: that Jesus was crucified, was buried, was raised and ascended to the right side of the Father, from where he rules all creation. My hope is in him and in his rule, not in any human government or ruler.

 

Don’t know who to vote for?  Last election I wrote in Lon Dean.

Repetition (part two): 7 Biblical Truths That Need to Be Repeated

1. Jesus Christ is the only Savior.

Pastor and leaders, keep telling the church — over and over again because the lie of “there are many roads to heaven” is creeping into the Western Church.

Parents and guardians, keep telling your kids that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  They spend most of their time away from you in a world that teaches them the opposite.

Christians, keep telling the world Jesus Christ is Lord.  He’s their only hope of salvation.

Always stay focused on The Lord Jesus with people.  People aren’t offended by the word “God” but use the name of Jesus Christ and many are.  Why? It’s because there are many gods, but only one true and live God!

2. The church is an essential part of the Lord’s plan, for all followers of Jesus.

I am referring to your local congregation. The church of Jesus Christ is more than our local assembly, I know.  However, it is impossible for world-wide church or universal church to carry out God’s will without strong local churches.  In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells His followers to go and make disciples.  This includes baptisms and teaching them to obey God’s word.  The most effective place of discipleship is a local church.

Many people claim to be able to live for Christ better without the church but I’ve never known it to be true.  Left alone, nature always moves towards the wilderness.  To produce much fruit a tree needs to be pruned, watered, fertilized etc.  The local church is the means Jesus created to disciple us.

NO ONE who followed Christ in the New Testament church stayed on their own.  They were “added daily” to the local church (Acts 2).  When you read the New Testament 90% of verses that talk about the church refer to a local gathering.  All the Epistles of Paul were written to a local assembly.  The word church itself means “those called out to assemble.”  There is a move today to make it unimportant to be part of a local church and the result is carnal, weak, immature believers who have not been properly discipled.

3. The Bible is the inspired word of God.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” David said the godly man’s “delight is in the Word of God and in that Word (law) doth he meditate day and night.”

We must combat the lies that the Bible is a collection of good stories or that the things in the Bible didn’t really happen but as simply allegories.  When it says Jonah was swallowed by a big fish or Peter walked on water, those things really happened to real people!

People have tried for years to disprove scripture, even the history of the Old Testament, to disprove that is was divinely written.  No one ever has disproved on verse.  A great book on this subject is Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.  It’s not easy reading but the facts are great. Josh set out to disprove the Bible and became a preacher after realizing he couldn’t!

As far as the Bible itself.  Repeat verses to yourself and your kids.  Memorize passages. Repetition is a great teacher. In fact, it may be the best teacher on the planet.  If the Bible is the Word of God then let’s do our best to learn it.

I know you’re thinking “WHAT?  There are only 3 truths here!”  Well, it was getting long so the rest will come next blog.  Follow me so you’ll be notified!

The A-B-Cs of Faith

People often ask about faith.  Faith is often mentioned in the Bible but it is one of those subjective topics that people have various opinions on.
What are the basics about faith that we can learn from scripture?

It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6[1]

We see that faith is important to God.  In fact, it’s impossible to please Him without it.  Hebrews chapter 11 is filled with people who received God’s blessing through faith.  What is faith exactly?

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1

Faith believes confidently that what we are hoping for will exactly happen for us!  It’s more than a wish or a dream.  It’s a confident assurance in an expected answer.  We have faith in things all the time.  We have faith that when we sit the chair will hold us up.  (Unless you struggle with a fat-guy fear.)  We expect a certain behavior.  Biblically God expects us to have faith in Him to behave in a way that He promised He would.

It’s not about GREAT faith, but child-like, mustard-seed-size faith.  We have all been given a measure of faith and it only takes faith the size of a small seed, to move mountains.  Therefore, it’s not about how great your faith is, just if you have any.

How can we exercise faith?  Here’s a simply A-B-C how to guide:

Always Agree with the Word of God.

Don’t worry about not having enough faith, simply agree with God’s word.  The old bumper sticker said it best “God said it.  I believe it, and that settles it!”

If you’re not going to agree with God’s word what are you going to agree with? The negative reports?  The nay-sayers?

We have faith that if we accept Christ’s work as our salvation we shall get to heaven.  Then we should also believe all the other promises He makes us in His word.

Boldly Believe that God rewards those who seek Him.

We have a wrong belief that God is aloof or uncaring.  He loves us and desires to bless us. If we agree with God’s word and we believe He loves us then we will expect His blessing when we seek Him!

If you believe something, you have to act like it.  Be a doer of the word, not a hearer only (James 1:22).  When God told Noah there was going to be a flood and to build an Ark, Noah believed Him.  How do we know?  We know because Noah spent the next 100 years building a giant boat in the desert!!

Side note:  This doesn’t mean be foolish.  The devil ask Jesus to prove His belief in God’s word by jumping off a building (Matthew 4:1-11) but Jesus replied “not to teat God.”  Don’t let the devil get you to take a ‘leap of foolishness’ thinking it’s a ‘leap of faith’.

Confidently Confess the Word of God aloud.

The tongue is like a rudder steering you to where you will go.  Eventually what keep saying will come to pass in your life.  If continually tell yourself you can’t do something, you can be sure you won’t.

Note: Speaking something isn’t all that take to get somewhere, there is also obedience, aligning with God’s will and more but you can be sure that if you confess you won’t, you won’t.

In John chapter 1 people ask John the Baptist who he is.  John’s responds in humility (not worthy to unstrap the Lord’s sandle) and confidence in God working through Him (I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.)  It’s not arrogance to confidently confess that God is going to do for you and through you, exactly what He said He would do…it’s faith!

It’s my hope that this simple ABCs of Faith will bless you an


[1] All scripture references are quoted from the New Living Translation unless otherwise noted.

Best Easter Ever

This year at our church (House of Praise) we set out to make Easter the best Easter we’ve ever had.  We produced a 15 minute CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) style drama with professionally done video and scenery as a background.  The sermon followed the theme by investigating the scripture on the resurrection. The music team brought excellence and creativity to the service. The Children’s Department set up a cafe style setting and had fun things like a bouncy room.  Our volunteers were on point, greeting, seating and treating people well.  We gave gifts to guests and then we did everything we could to get people to come. We mailed out 12,000 oversize post cards, we challenged our members to invite 10 people each, and the outreach team handed out hundreds of invites at the local Wal*Mart.  The results?  Best Easter Ever!  Why do I say that?

  • 0ver 430 people attended (Our highest ever!)
  • At least 10 people accepted Christ for the 1st time (filled out a card to tell us)
  • At least 7 people rededicated their lives to following Christ
  • Many people returned to church
  • Many stories of life change already coming in

What this means is all of us didn’t just have a great service but lives were changed and the Kingdom of God advanced!

You can still make it your best Easter ever by committing to let the resurrected Savior run your life.  You can decide to live differently that before Easter, to expect God to be present in your life. You can expect God to flow through you to help others meet the risen Lord.

Make this the best Easter ever in your life by taking the power of the Resurrection with you into the rest of the year…expect new life ahead.  Best Easter ever…

Do you know you’re at war?

ImageThere is a battle raging around you right now…a battle for souls. There are two opposing forces fighting over your soul and the souls of all the people you love.  There is no neutral ground. We can’t decide not to be in the war because WE are what the war is over!

Then the dragon became angry at the woman, and he declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and confess that they belong to Jesus.
– Revelation 12:17

The devil has made it his purpose to destroy you.  Really Lon?  We’re going to talk about the devil?  Well, think of it this way.  There is a force that works daily against you wanting to follow God.  Some of my Christian friends will say “It’s the flesh.”  According to Galatians 5:16-17 that’s true.  We have a fallen nature that is at war with our spirits.  Our old sinful nature wants to do evil and our new nature from God want to do right.

Other less “churchy” friends might say, “Well, it’s really the influence of culture, society and peer pressure.”  It is true, the message of the Christianity has always been counter-culture and the moral relevantism of our culture today is completely against what scripture teaches.

So why choose to talk about the devil?  It seems so medieval.  The reason is because the devil doesn’t want people to think he’s real or at least active in the earth today.  The truth is satan is real, he’s active in the earth today, he hates you and has declared war on you.

His weapons are espionage, stealth warfare.  He engages in a propaganda warfare.  Satan tries to get us to believe he’s mythical, a fairy tale. Then we let our guards down and he begins to question all of scripture, because if satan isn’t real, then the Bible is just a book.

How do we win this war?  We win by

  1. Not believing the lies of the enemy – this is accomplished by learning the truth  (Eph 5:25-26) and not dwelling on thoughts we know aren’t true (2 Cor 10:5)
  2. Not seeing people as our enemies – Our battle is with the devil not the people he’s deceived (Eph 6:12).  We must forgive all sins against ourselves to keep the devil from having control of out lives.  (Matt 6:15)
  3. Take the fight to the devil – No war was ever one being defensive only.  At some point we must do damage to the enemies forces.  There is no greater damage then saving a soul from hell.  By bringing the truth to those deceived we rescue them from satan’s power but we also diminish the amount of people he controls.

 

A Letter of Gratitiude

A few weeks ago (during our “Go Fish!” I asked the entire church to write a letter to thank the person who “hooked” you for Jesus.  I know, corny, but the lesson is great. Even if you never send the letter or the person is deceased, the exercise of writing it will help you remember how much you were impacted by that person sharing their faith.  That fact will in turn help you to share your faith with others, brilliant.  Thank you Andy Stanley for the idea.

If have never done this…DO IT TODAY.  Here’s my letter to a young lady who simply invited me to church.

Dear Annie,

I am writing to thank you. It was 24 years ago this month that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

I remember it started with me asking what I could get you for your birthday and you said, “I just want you to go to church with me.”  It took you continually asking me until October when I finally went!  I said, “If I go with you ONE time, will never ask me again?” and you agreed.  You told me years later how you had people pray because you were nervous this would be the only time I would go.

We went to Agape Christian Fellowship for a Sunday service. (You told me later you didn’t want to bring me to your dad’s church for my first time because he might embarrass you.)  You and Joanne picked me up so I couldn’t back out.

Before I left my parent’s house, my father told me how to know if it was a cult. He said if the people had beady eyes and there were guards at the doors, it was a cult.  I laughed but when I got there, the preacher, Jason Peebles from Tulsa, had beady eyes!  I looked around and there were guards at the door.  (They called them ushers but I know what they were!) I started to panic, my dad wasn’t joking. This is a cult.  There are no statues of saints, not even a cross!  It’s a warehouse with some chairs and a stage!

People were raising their hands and swaying to the music, I heard some of them give this weird chant in another language!  I thought, “What was that, Latin or Wiccan?  I started to plan which “usher” I could knock over to run out an exit when everyone sat to hear the preacher.  I couldn’t tell you one thing he said, but at the end I found myself answering an altar call and asking Jesus to forgive my sins and take control of my life.

Although I was raised in a traditional church, I felt the presence of God’s Spirit for the first time in my life that day. I just began to say, “This is real.  He’s real.”  I had believed God was real before but had never met Him.  I started to cry for no reason.  I never cried!  I was a tough guy.  I prayed, “Lord I wan to always be this way, tender before you.” I still cry today when I feel God’s Spirit moving.

My life today is wonderful.  I lead a growing church with a wonderful group of people who actually want the reality of God in their everyday lives.  I wouldn’t be in the ministry today if you hadn’t prayed for me and invited me to church. Hundreds of peoples lives would have never been impacted by Joanne & myself in ministry.

I been privaledged to travel the world bringing the gospel to Brazil, Argentina, Curacao, Mexico, Kenya, England, Wales and Canada.  I have watched God heal many people including blind and deaf as I prayed for them.  I have watched God set hundreds of people free as we cast our demons and many, many salvations.  None of which would have happened if you didn’t share Christ with me.

My proudest achievement is as a godly husband ad father.  We have a great home and our four daughters all serve God.  Each has seen friends turn their lives over to Christ.  You also introduced me to Joanne.  We wouldn’t be married nor these girls be here, if you didn’t share Christ with both of us.

Like the image painted by the words of the old Ray Boltz song “Thank You”, only when you get to heaven will you understand the impact you have had on thousands of lives because you invited Joanne and myself to meet God.  Thank you.

Write your letter today.  It will help you to remember how important sharing your faith is.  If Anna had never invited me to church, none of the great things God has done in my life would have happened.

Beyond Redemption

A few weeks ago I preached a message on how the church should treat gay people.  I called it Out of the Closet and Into the Church. (http://sc.fhview.com/sc_customplayer/seriesitems/1/118751) The goal of this message was for the church to examine our attitudes towards this particular people group.  After the message an elderly woman approached me.  She was wearing oxygen and walking with a walker.  I must admit I thought, “Here we go.”  I expected her to rebuke me for not condemning homosexuality during the sermon.  Much to my surprise she asked a simple question…

“What about murderers?” she inquired.

There was an unexpected brightness in her eyes, a curiosity and vigor for life one wouldn’t expect given her frail frame.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  Really it wasn’t that I didn’t hear her, I just needed a moment to collect my thoughts.  I was prepared for an onslaught of fire and brimstone senior saints, not an inquisitive truth seeker.

After all, I had just preached the most controversial sermon of my career.  I opened with “If you came here expecting me to condemn homosexuality today, you will be disappointed.” I chastised the church asking why we celebrated a straight couple who was sexually active, even living together, coming to church. We allowed them time for God to work on them without judgment but let a gay couple walk in holding hands…whoooo.  They weren’t welcome.  I did my best Jesus imitation calling us hypocrites.  The church just nodded.  I the weeks to follow, not one letter or disagreement.  I’m so proud of our local church and their Christ-like love.

Anyways, here I was after that sermon, expecting a fight, instead facing a sweet senior saint who still wanted to grow and learn in her last years on this earth.  Humbling.

“Excuse me?” I muttered.  “Murderers.” She repeated more forcefully. “They are much harder to love and accept than homosexuals. What about murderers? Can they be forgiven and go to heaven?”

I explained that the Apostle Paul helped to kill early Christians before his conversion and that god didn’t just forgive Paul but wrote 2/3 of the New Testament through his hands.  I excitedly told her that Michael Franzese was coming to answer that very question.  To tell her how a Mafia Boss, a murderer, can be forgiven…and that no one is beyond redemption.

Three weeks later, my eyes lighted upon a pair of bright, excited eyes in a back section of a packed sanctuary. She was back to hear the former Mob Boss’ story of redemption. She smiled at me as she pointed to a row full of her family.  Full of confidence in God’s love for all sinners, she had brought her family to hear that there is no one beyond redemption.

The First Tool for Life

I’m reading a book called The Ultimate Checklist for Life and it causes me to ask a question.  Are you prepared for life’s unexpected turns?

Life is a journey of twists and turns that take you around blind curves not knowing what’s around the bend. There are perils and pleasures, advances and set backs, obstacles and opportunities (sometimes the obstacles are the opportunities!) Fear if the unknown or fear of failure could paralyze a traveler on this journey called life.  How can we minimize anxiety and maximize success?

As any seasoned adventurer will tell you, it’s best to adopt the Boy Scout motto and “Be Prepared.”  To be prepared one must know the right tools to take.  Campers take things like tents, compasses, matches, water, bug spray, first aid kits, even things like emergency flares or a gun for protection. What are the right tools to take along the journey with you?  How can we be prepared?

The most important tool is the word of God, the Holy Bible.

I know it sound cliche but it’s true.  And I know, it is God’s love letter to humanity, and it is the story of God’s relationship to us, but it is also a guide book.  It is the instruction manual written by the creator of life on how this whole thing operates!

Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live. – Psalm 119:144

His word helps us to understand this life He’s given us so that we may live.  Scripture talks about almost any topic you need, relationships, work, money, sickness, heartache, forgiveness, education, family, love, lust, even interest rates and cosigning a loan! (Bet you didn’t know that was in there!)

To be prepared for life, start with God’s instructions for how to live.

Life is God’s novel. Let Him write it. – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Next Week: Tool #2

Celebrating Bin Laden’s Death

Like most American’s I was interesting in the news on May 1st that Bin Laden was finally dead. My first feeling was one of relief. I remember thinking “finally.” That feeling was later mixed with skepticism when hearing the circumstances surrounding the body (no photos of corpse, hurry up burial at sea etc.) but this is not a blog about conspiracy theories.

As a Christian, the more I more I saw people celebrate the more convicted I became. I thought, “What is the appropriate response for me as a pastor and even more importantly as a follower of Jesus?”

I’m not presuming to tell you how you should feel. I’m just trying to make us all take a breath and think for moment.  A little WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) time.  Doesn’t God sorrow even when evil men die?

Now I understand the concept of a just war.  The Bible is filled with people being put to death for rejecting God or attacking Israel. There must be the concept of a just war in society to defend the weak or stop those committing evil. My questions come because I also Jesus weeping over the people who have rejected His salvation. (Matthew 23:37)

Look at this warning from the Bible…

Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them. – Proverbs 24:17-18

This verse teaches us to be careful not to rejoice in death. I would think, especially not to rejoice that someone was sent to an eternal hell.  I celebrate our troops who serve selflessly to preserve our freedom and safety.  I even celebrate that fact that Bin Laden’s death will probably save many other lives.  I can even feel a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served. I just question the celebration.

Psalm 37:28 says, “The Lord loves Justice.” I know you’re thinking, “This terrorist finally got what he deserved.” and it’s true.  However, I don’t want God to give me what I deserve because we all deserve hell. (Romans 3:10-23)

The Apostle Paul was a murderer, so was King David. When they repented God forgave them.  I have had the privilege of ministering to murders before and the main message I bring is always grace and forgiveness for all we’ve done.

The question that bring this situation into focus is this…Would we have celebrated as much if Bin Laden had repented and accepted Christ?

Now again, I’m not pointing fingers and trying to tell you what to feel or that your feelings are wrong.  I’m just asking myself…”Should I celebrate the death of anyone, no matter what good comes from it?”

It’s just a simple question.

Lent and Self Examination

I was raised Catholic and always participated in Lent growing up.  I would give up candy, not eat meat on Fridays etc. While I know longer participate in the ritualistic practices of Lent, I appreciate the idea behind the Catholic Sacrament that takes place during the season. Abstaining from certain pleasures and foods for the purpose of getting closer to God is a biblical practice I often do called fasting & prayer. In the Catholic Sacrament of Lent, they also set aside time for mourning ones sin.  I’m not advocating that part because we don’t need to mourn sin that God has forgiven. If we’ve repented we’re clean (1 John 1:9).

There is Biblical reference for Lent, I do however think the practice of examining our lives and praying with fasting during the days prior to Easter is a good habit to get into.

We are fasting and praying for people to accept God’s gift of salvation this Easter.  Our church is fasting and gathering the Wednesday before Easter to pray together. I cancelled our satellite TV subscription for a while to spend more time reading and praying.  (Extra bonus, the kids are actually playing outside.  No joke, really, it’s true.)

I encourage you to turn of the T.V., skip a meal and pray more between now and Easter.  You may find yourself ‘mourning’ for  someone who hasn’t yet accepted God’s grace or maybe even ‘mourning’ and repenting a sin in your own life you didn’t even know was there.  I know I will.

Did Jesus Talk about Hell?

I have never liked fire and brimstone preaching.  It is His kindness that causes us to turn to Him.  I believe that when people understand the love of God, that is the fact that draws us to Him.  However, if we read the rest of this verse there is a warning of the dangers of rejecting Christ.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. – Romans 2:4-5

Talking about Hell isn’t pleasant. No one should enjoy it, but it is important.  In over a dozen years of preaching I’ve never devoted a sermon to the reality of Hell.  So we decided that it was time to address the reality of Hell.

As an introduction our media team did “on the street” interviews in Albany.  In over an hour during the First Friday celebration, they could not find one person who believed in Hell.  Our Youth Director Michael commented in his blog that it saddened him. A friend of his then publicly rebuked him on Facebook for his condemning people.   She was doing what she accused him of, condemning Michael for his views.  Here’s my problem with it…it’s not Michael’s view.  It’s a biblical fact.

Described in many places in scripture as a place of fire (Mark 9:43-45, & 13:49-51) and torment (Revelation 14:10-11) Hell wasn’t meant for us.  It was created for the devil and his demons (Matthew 25:41).  God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell (John 3:16). It is our rejection of Christ that causes us to go to Hell.

It’s like this, light can’t exist in the darkness.  You turn a light bulb on in the room darkness is expelled.  God is light. He is holy.  Sin or darkness can’t exist in His presence. It’s expelled.  We are all sinners (Romans 3:22-23) and therefore can’t enter heaven on our own.

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. 48 When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. 49That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, 50throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Do you understand all these things?” – Matthew 13:47-51

We are all wicked but some are made righteous by the blood of Jesus.

The response to a discussion on Hell is sometimes, “But Jesus taught about love and forgiveness, not hell.”  Actually, the quote above from Matthew 13 is Jesus talking.  He never wanted anyone to go to Hell, that’s why He came to make a way for us to heaven.

Gates: Directions and Decisions

For those of you who asked for it, here’s the gates from Nehemiah 3.  Each gate had a purpose for Israel and I would like to say they have and application for us today and even the order is interesting.

Sheep Gate – We need to become part of the sheep fold.  First build relationships Christ through slavation then with other believers who will strengthen our faith. – 1st gate rebuilt: Connecting to God & Church. Decide to follow Christ and connect with other sheep.

Fish Gate – After salvation we need to become fishers of men. – 2nd  gate rebuilt: Reaching Others. Make a decision to be actively sharing Christ with others.

Old Gate – it means, Long remaining. To me a symbol of remembering the ancient ways taught in scripture.  It also makes me think of returning to our  first love. Rebuild the gate of making decisions based on scripture and God’s will.

City Gate – This is the place of commerce.  The caravans would stop and trade at the city gates.  It was also where the town meeting happened, the government help public meetings at the city gate. We need to be involved in our city and have God involved in our Financial Decisions.

Valley GateHumbleness, Jesus was the “Lily of the Valley”. This is a picture of  prayer, illustrating our dependence upon God.  Don’t make any major decisions without prayer.

The valley gate was the one I forgot last Sunday, sorry.

Dung Gate – The place of the removing of refuse, throwing away the useless things.  What’s taking up your time, wasting your energy or distracting you from you destiny?  Decide to eliminate waste.

Fountain GateHoly Spirit; Springs of Living Water, refreshing.  We need to be led by The Spirit. Listen to the still, small voice and follow God’s leading in our decisions.  

Water Gate – This reminds me of the washing of word. This was the only part of wall that was still standing when Nehemiah went back to rebuild.  The word is eternal build your life on it.

East Gate – Adam & Eve we put in a garden called Eden in East.  When they were cast out, they were sent East of Eden. They were sent out because of their sin but sent with a prophesy of hope. Eve was told that her offspring would crush the serpent’s head.  Even when we sin, as sun rises in the East, His mercy is new every morning – It’s a Gate of Hope. Decide to go on when you sin because there is hope.

Horse Gate – Horses many times in scripture are used as symbols of war. This is the Gate of Spiritual Warfare. After rebuilding all the other things in our lives we can’t neglect spiritual warfare.  We are in a battle whether we want to be or not.

Inspection Gate – After the other gates are all rebuilt in our lives we understand how to inspect things to make good decisions. – Gate of Wisdom

Get started building these gates in your life today!

Stress Reducing Tips

As I think about stress it occurs to me that most of my stress is caused by not responding properly to unpleasant situations.  I eat.  Some people need a drink or cigarette to calm down.  These coping strategies may temporarily make us feel better, but they cause more damage in the long run and therefore ADD to our stress longterm:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol (needing one glass to relax is still dependency)
  • Overeating or under eating
  • Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer (a screen’s a screen)
  • Withdrawing from church, friends, family, and activities
  • Using pills or drugs to relax
  • Sleeping too much
  • Procrastinating
  • Filling up every minute of the day with busyness to avoid facing problems
  • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, violence)

So what are proper responses?  Well teacher says you can get an A+ for these healthy steps to reduce stress:

Absolve – Forgive. It’s that simple. Let go of the hurts of the past and move on.

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15

Unforgiveness is like strapping the person to you back and carrying them with you forever, letting them hurt you again and again. Forgive someone is for YOU.  It puts you back in right standing with God.

Not forgiving yourself for a failure or sin is just as destructive.  God forgives you, don’t call unclean what god calls clean, you.

Adapt– Most stress can be reduced responding properly. Adapt your strategies in a hostile environment.

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. – Proverbs 15:1

When one of my kids says, “I hit them because they made me mad.”  I respond that no one can make you mad…you choose to respond in anger.

Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress you’re under.

Adjust–  Make reasonable goals. Perfectionism is a major source of stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, by learning to accept “good enough.” I’m not talking about not doing your best and making excuses, I’m talking about not obsessing over every detail.

The hopes of the godly result in happiness, but the expectations of the wicked come to nothing. – Proverbs 10:28

Admire–  Choose to be an optimist.  That glass is half full! When feeling stressed, reflect on all the things you’re thankful for.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise His name. Psalm 100:4

Avoid– I’m not talking about procrastination. Putting off unavoidable stress such as studying or confronting a difficult person actually increases your stress level. I mean avoid unhealthy situations or relationships.  Example: “Every time I hang with my old friends I drink again.”  Then don’t hang out with them!

Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.

I hope these simple five simple “A’s” help you have less stress in the New Year.

Keep It Simple

God’s plan for us is to give us an abundant, full life but He never said a full calendar. So many people bound by perfectionism and unreasonable expectations, it makes it hard to enjoy life!

The original law consisted of 10 commandments, but by they wrote more until there were 613! There seems to be something in our human nature that just likes to make things more complicated.

Jesus made it more simple:  “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Then He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, and on these two commandments, everything is based.

People take 10 commandments and come up with 613, Jesus says “Well if you do things the rest is taken care of.” (paraphrasing)

Now this is a very difficult concept for me to grasp. I analyze everything – people, life, situations, you name it and I analyze it. I was a statistician for nearly a decade so I’m always looking for the “hidden meaning” in things.  I love “Mensa moments” and discussing “deep” things…but over-thinking LIFE gives us undo stress. God doesn’t want us to have feelings of inadequacy, stress or anxiety. He wants us FREE of all burdens. Don’t spend time on the “What ifs” and the “I wish I never…”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:30

Can we reduce stress? Yes, we have to simplify, but God will remove unneccessary burdens.

  • STOP – In all the busyness of your day don’t forget to stop, breath for a moment and pray.
  • LESS is MORE – Learn to say no is hard but simpler means les stress.
  • UBEU – You be you, be yourself.  Life is too short to try to please everyone.
  • INCLUDE GOD – When we pray, we are acknowledging that we need Him.
  • FORGIVE – When we hold onto hurts we carry that person with us and let them continue to hurt us.  When we don’t forgive ourselves we trap ourselves in the past.  Let it go!

We must become simple to become great in God.

Looking for more on this topic?  Go to http://www.NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com and listen to Simple Christmas or Simple Life series.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 27: We Are Ambassadors

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. – 2 Corinthians 5:11

A “fearful responsibility to the Lord” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.  Words to take notice of.  We have a responsibility that we should fear not fulfilling!  What is this awesome responsibility that is so important the Holy Spirit would choose those words to record it for all eternity?  Persuading others to follow Christ.  I know, you’re thinking “We know, we’re supposed to share the good news with people.”  It’s more than that.  If you were in your last 30 days to live and asked “What should I do to make sure I’m right with God?” We might talk about forgiving others or repenting of sins but probably not “go tell someone about God’s love.”  Yet this is exactly what this verse is saying.

Later in the same chapter the Holy Spirit (through Paul) reminds us of our purpose on this planet.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

We love to quote the verse 17, “We are new!  The old life is gone.” but WHY? So that we can be Ambassadors for Christ.

An ambassador is an official representative of something. Paul tells the Church in Corinth that We Christians are Christ’s ambassadors. His official representatives. Christ has sent His message to us and through us for the world to hear and see. We are sent with Christ’s message of reconciliation. So your title is “Ambassador of Reconciliation.” Now that is a calling. So what is reconciliation? Reconciliation according to the Encarta Dictionary is a “renewing.” The “ending of conflict.” So Christ came to reconcile us with God….. renew us with God, so we would not be condemned to death. And as Christ’s ambassador we are called to encourage other to become renewed…. In faith, and focus on God.

If the time we had left on this planet was less than 30 days we should spend them representing the one who is calling us home to His heavenly country.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 26: Overcoming Doubt

I apologize for falling behind with these devotionals.  Between going to Syracuse to see my mother-in-law and being home sick for a couple days myself it couldn’t be helped.  I will try to catch up…let’s talk about doubt.

Some people have the wrong idea about faith.  Faith isn’t the absence of doubt but real faith overcomes doubt to believe in something yet unseen.  Thomas needed to see Jesus to believe but Jesus told Him “blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.”

As a person faces the last 30 Days to Live, sometimes they will have doubts about God.  That’s ok. Real faith overcomes those doubts to focus on their faith.  It was like that for James the brother of Jesus.

James didn’t believe his brother could be God.  “MY big brother?  No way!”  He didn’t believe that the Son of God had grown up right in his own house.

Jesus’ brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even His brothers didn’t believe in Him. – John 7:3-5

James had his doubts, we all do.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe, it’s ok.  We just can’t STAY there.  We have to remember we have met the Risen Lord who we can trust in.  James saw Jesus after the resurrection and then He believed. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Mary had doubt about Jesus even being born.  As the angel told her she would conceive and bear the Messiah, she had a question.  “How can this be since I am a virgin.”  As the angel explained that all things are possible with God and that the miracle birth would happen via the Holy Spirit, Mary’s response shows her faith.

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” – Luke 1:38

It wasn’t that Mary didn’t have questions or even doubts, it that she overcame them by focusing on the word that God had given her.

In conclusion, James and Mary show us the keys to overcoming doubt and walking in faith, meeting the Risen Lord and believing His word.  You may be facing overwhelming obstacles or even a crisis of faith, remember when you met Jesus and rehearse His words to you.

Prayer

Lord, I admit that I sometimes doubt. I know you love me but sometimes I doubt that you’ll protect me or that you’ll provide for me.  Help me to remember the way I felt when I first accepted you as Savior.  Remind me of the scriptures you’ve shown me.  I choose to trust you and help me to believe your promises more than what I see.  In your name I ask, Amen.

Thoughts

  • Do I doubt that God will protect me?
  • Have I come under condemnation during times when I doubted?

Action

  • Memorize 1 promise from the bible.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 25: Enduring Trials

As a person is told they have 30 Days to Live, they face a trial few living today can identify with.  It would be the ultimate testing of one’s faith, facing eternity.  How we endure a trial like this ultimately clears up any questions about whether our faith is real or not.

This Mother’s Day was a difficult one.  It was the first Mother’s Day without my mom (see Facing Forever) and we went to see my mother-in-law who is in the hospital losing her battle with cancer.  What happens to your faith when real trials come?  My mother-in-law, while always having been a religious person, has turned to reading the Bible daily and praying more.  Is she afraid? Sure, but her faith has increased through this trial and she is actually being brought closer to God through it.

My wife and I are asking God for a miracle for her mother, but if one doesn’t come, our faith will not be shaken.  Why? Because we trust in God’s word that when a love one faces 30 Days to Live, the Lord is there.

Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Our faith is not real if it cracks in a trial.  Good time faith isn’t really faith at all.  Even death can’t separate real faith from the believer.  Death is just another trial to endure and conquer.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.  And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else. – James 1:12-14

No one sells books on “patient endurance” and it wouldn’t be a most popular sermon download on YouTube but it’s a key to God’s plan.  When we close our eyes on this planet for a final time, the crown of eternal life is given to those who have endured through their trial and still have faith in Christ in the end.

The last words I ever spoke to my father as he laid dying in a hospital bed were “Keep the faith.” and those are my last words to you today.  Even if the trial you face is death itself, keep the faith.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that no matter what the trial is, you haven’t left me.  Help to remember also that you didn’t send me this trail but you will bring good things out of it, even if the trial is death.  I will patiently endure all hardship because I know you will carry me through it.  I love you.  Amen.

Thoughts

  • Have I lost faith during past trials?
  • If I were to face the death of a loved one would I blame God?

Action

  • Pray this week for those whom you know are in trails that they may not lose faith.

___________________________________________________

Written May 2010: prayers for Fran and our family gratefully accepted.

30 Days to Live – Day 24: Reality

Today the reality of 30 Days to Live hit us in a very personal way.  My wife (Pastor Joanne) found out that her mom (Fran) has terminal cancer.  As Joanne sat in the hospital room with her mom and other family members, the doctor told Fran to “get her affairs in order.”  Her response was, “So this is a death sentence.”  It is one thing to be writing about facing your final days on this earth it’s another when death actually is right in front of you with someone you care about.

While we are praying and asking for God to do a miracle, first responsibility is to make sure your loved one is ready for life after death.  Fran has believed in God and has been attended church regularly so there was no need to convince her of her need for God’s forgiveness.  Instead Joanne focused on forgiving others.

The truth is we are all under a death sentence.  Maybe not as brutal and short as the one my mother-in-law just received, but this life is short and we are not promised tomorrow.  We must all “get our affairs in order” to make sure we are ready to meet our Savior.  One place people usually overlook is forgiving those who have hurt you.

As we prepare for the next life we want our sins to be forgiven and if we want to be forgiven for our sins we must forgive others. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray He gave us an example that has become called The Lord’s Prayer.  In it Jesus prays this:

Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. – Matthew 6:12

As Jesus was teaching His disciples to pray effectively He knew that our prayers are useless if we refuse to forgive others.

Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37

Why is this such a big deal to God?  Because HE is the Righteous Judge.  If we decide to judge others we are in effect saying we want to sit on God’s throne and do His job.  He has never tolerated that, just ask an angel named Lucifer.

Prayer

Pray this 3 Step Forgiveness Process:

  1. I take back any authority I gave the devil in my life through unforgiveness, especially towards ______ for what they did to me.
  2. I choose to forgive this person for what they did to me.
  3. I ask you God to help me to forgive this person, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thoughts

  • Who has hurt me?
  • Have I chosen to forgiven them?

Action

  • Forgive all the people who have hurt you, now.

___________________________________________________

Written May 2010: prayers for Fran and our family gratefully accepted.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day – 21: Traveling Light

We just returned from an eventful trip to Los Angeles, CA.  I took my wonderful daughter Moriah to check out a challenging college program at the Dream Center called ‘The Movement’ but that’s not what this blog is about.

Have you ever noticed that experienced travelers travel light?  You don’t hear them say, “I should have brought more.”  No they have only brought the necessities.  Experiences travelers realize that there is a cost for ever bag and a weight limit also.  It’s the same way in this journey we call life.  We don’t need heavy baggage slowing us down, delaying us from getting to where we want go.

When someone has 30 Days to Live, they readily drop the heavy bags as they prepare to depart for their final destination.  The emotional and spiritual baggage holds us back from living for the eternal.  Take ONLY the things that help you get to heaven.  Those essentials are the people, things and decisions that equip you to face the challenges ahead or push farther on your journey.  You want to leave behind the people, things and decisions that slow you down, offer no return on investment or even harm you.  How do you know what or who to take with you and what/who leave behind?

Three E’s to Take

  1. Energize – Keep the things that motive you or foster an atmosphere of creativity, people that are enthusiastic for life, and then renew your energy by doing things that refresh you.
  2. Excite – Keep the things that make you happy even if they seem silly or sentimental to others.  You know that special someone who makes your heart skip a beat or that friend you can’t think about without smiling?  Spend more time with them.  Do what you are passionate about.  Why waste your time in a career you hate?
  3. Empower – I know…it’s an annoying word but educate didn’t seem to cover it fully.   Keep thing that challenge and teach you.  Spend time with people who are willing to share their knowledge, experience, and skills and THEN challenge you to go farther with that knowledge. Take the actions that will catapult you further in your relationship with the Lord and others or in your career.

Three D’s to Leave Behind

  1. Drains – You know what they are.  Those things, people and actions that when you are done with them make you feel like a video game warrior who has taken too many body blows and whose life force is depleted.   Don’t let them suck the life out of you until it’s gone!
  2. Depleters – Things, people, and action that aren’t necessarily hurting you but they don’t help either.  These are the time wasters that deplete your resources (time, talent and treasure) without giving a return-on-investment.  You only have so many resources to give, put them where there is the greatest return.
  3. Destroyers – These are the things, people and actions/decisions that can damage us physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially or in our reputation.  There isn’t much to say, run away!

I know some of my faithful readers are thinking, “Can you be more specific?”  No, I can’t.  These lists are very personal and yours are yours, mine are mine.  What energizes you may deplete me and visa-versa.  If you will honestly evaluate the three E’s and 3 D’s for yourself you make great leaps towards the person you want to be.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to travel light.  Help me to take with me things and people and make decisions that energize, excite and empower me.  Help me to make the hard decision to walk away from the things, people and actions that drain, deplete or destroy me.  I thank you for giving me the ability to make these changes in my life to become the person you created me to be.

Thoughts

  • Am I happy?  If not, what are the Three D’s I need to remove?
  • Am I productive?  If nor, what can I do to better leverage the Three E’s?

Action

  • Dump one D and begin one E this week.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 20: A Risk-Taking Church

We heard a challenging word from Pastor Matthew Barnett this morning.  He spoke one becoming a Risk-Taking Church.  I found that amusing since I had written on taking risks that morning.  Today’s blog is based off the notes I took during that sermon.

Churches start out as Risk-Taking Churches.  The word to describe them would be DARING.  We’ve heard the stories. They left the comfort of jobs, friends, and families to run after a dream God gave them.  The focus is vision or calling.

Matthew Barnett did that.  He left one of the largest churches in America that his father led in Arizona to start the Dreamcenter in downtown Los Angeles. He was 20 years old and had 7 people with them.  Then when they were still small but growing, they purchased a 4 million dollar hospital when their weekly income was $1,500.
Everyone told him it was foolish.

There will always be well-intentioned people telling you why you can’t do what God has told you to do during the daring phase.

Then the church gets buildings, salaries…there is more to lose.  This the Care-Taking Church.  The word that best describes this is the word DUTY.   This church focuses on maintaining property and programs.  They care most about meting the needs of its members. The problem is if you’re not going forward in God you are in fact backsliding.  You can’t maintain.

The Care-Taking Church becomes the Under-Taking Church.  It becomes a dying memorial to what God had done.  They talk more about what God did in the past than what He has called us to do in the future. They study history and work to amass the knowledge of scripture. The word that best describes this is the word DEAD.

Here’s what will blow your mind.  The Under-Taking Church isn’t always a dead church meaning; no miracles, no presence of God.  Under-Taking is a death of vision a death of the Great Commission.  Sometimes this church focuses on the ‘next experience’ with God but the gift is emphasized over the giver.  It’s not about what God wants us to do when we leave His presence but simply the next experience I can have personally.

Reading Hebrews chapter 11 we see the ‘Heroes of Faith’, God’s Hall of Fame.  They were all Risk-Takers!  Noah had no support when he responded to God’s word.  Noone believed He had heard God.

You can’t walk by faith and walk safe.

“How to” becomes the question of safe walkers, trying to manage miracles.  You can’t manage miracles.  You leap into the unknown and pray God catches you.

Jesus risked the salvation of all mankind on 12 fearful, dysfunctional, difficult underachievers and one of them was a traitor!  That’s taking a risk.  What if they didn’t do what they were called to do?

Our problem is that we want security more than glory.  You can never be great without taking a risk.

In closing let me say this, failing to take a risk is a sin.  If we care more about our image than advancing the Kingdom of God, it’s a sin.  God’s plan for you is bigger than your potential!  God’s vision for our church is greater than we can even comprehend.  We certainly can’t make it happen without Him.  Give God the chance to do great things through you.

Don’t be afraid to go where God has already gone.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  Help me to fear missing your destiny more than what others will think if I fail.  I choose to take a leap of faith rather than playing it safe.

Thoughts

  • Is our church playing it safe or taking a risk?
  • How can I support my friends in their Risk-Taking adventures?

Action

  • Take a risk by praying for a stranger who need a miracle.
  • Start a ministry for God that needs His supernatural touch to succeed.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day 18: 30 Days to Glorify God

Bill Morgan gives us a glimpse of what he’ll be teaching this Sunday.

Isaiah 43:7 – Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.

When one is facing the end of their life their entire perspective changes. One of the questions that comes up is “Did my life count?” For those of us who know Christ, given 30 Days to Live we can make our life count.

First we must recognize that God makes it simple. It is man who complicates the gospel for his own gain. The prophet Isaiah spoke the words of God plainly, “I have made them for my Glory.” Who is the “them” in this verse it’s those who “Claim Jesus as their God”. I have asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and I “Claim” Jesus as my God therefore I was made for God’s Glory.  If I was made for His glory then how do I give glory to God?

There are many answers to that question, many ways to glorify God. Anything that I do to further, promote, or expand the Kingdom of God brings Glory to God. When I read the bible and begin to change my thinking into the thinking of God, I give God Glory. When I love like 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, I give God Glory. When I feed the hungry, cloth the naked and give a cup of water in Jesus name, I give God glory. I know understand that the list is endless.

If I were to sum it up it would be this;

Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If the question is, “Did my life count?” I could say, “Yes it did.” Why? Because I talked to someone about Christ and I lifted up a brother in need. I helped the poor whenever I could.

In the Song of Solomon it says, “Catch us the little foxes who spoil the young buds on the vine”. The buds become flowers and the flowers become the fruit of the vine. It’s not the big things that spoil the entire vineyard; it’s the small things. Likewise, Jesus says that if we are faithful in the small things we are worthy of bigger things. Giving God glory is not about the big things it’s about the little things. Offering to pray with someone who is down, inviting someone to church and even simply stopping in the middle of your day and thanking Jesus for being a part of your life. All of this brings glory to Him who made you.

When we give God Glory we are fulfilling the purpose of why we are here, we are making our life count.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, show me how to glorify you today.  Make me aware of the opportunities I pass by daily unaware.  I want to glorify you in every way.

Thoughts for Today

  • What did I do to bring glory to God yesterday?
  • Do I put God’s Kingdom first?

Action List

  • Ask one person if you can pray for them today.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 17: Dying Young

Hi everyone.  While I’m on the road, Randy Hartwig is filling in with these profound thoughts on dying young.

During Isaiah the prophet’s lifetime, God’s chosen people, Israel, were backsliding. In other words, they were not living for God and were far from Him. Their value system and the things they were concerned about were so messed up that they didn’t care or even ask, “Why?” when good people died before their time.  Here’s the direct quote from the prophet: (Isaiah 57:1)  Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why.

In our culture, when someone good dies “before their time” it can cause a lot of people to struggle and question God. As we consider death in this series we have to ask ourselves, what is my attitude concerning death in this type of  situation? The fact is good people DO die young. Even some godly people die seemingly before their time…..preachers, parents, young children, famous church leaders. What if you find out you will die young or if it happens to someone you love dearly? How will you respond to God

Read the rest of what Isaiah said in this verse! “No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.” That is really interesting. Does God take people BEFORE their time to protect them from evil? Well, if we believe the Word to be true, that’s exactly what it says. That can shed a whole new perspective on death. It doesn’t necessarily bring instant healing of the grief you feel when you lose someone young or godly, but it sure can give you something positive to focus on. My loved one will NOT suffer the evil that is to come.

In the next verse Isaiah gives this promise: (Isaiah 57:2)  For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.  The paths we should choose while we live should be those that cause us to act godly – like God. We need to ask ourselves, “If God was in the same situation I am in, what would He do?” Then we determine to do the right thing, the biblical thing, the thing HE would do. The result is godliness and that brings peace.

So as you face death everyday, choose those things that will keep you on the godly path that leads to peace. Death is not something to be feared. It is rest. It is an exit from a world full of evil to an eternity of joy in the physical presence of the Lord.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, I don’t always understand why somethings happen, especially why some people have to die when they’re young.  Help me to give my grief and questions to you.  I choose to trust you even when I don’t understand.

Thoughts for Today

  • Have I ever thought about how death can be a relief from suffering?
  • Do I have questions and grief over the death of a loved one I need to give to the Lord?

Action List

  • Begin to live like I have 30 Days to Live because we are not promised tomorrow.
  • Share Christ with those I care about before it’s too late, even if they are younger.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 15: What’s My Life All About?

As a person looks at the last 30 Days of their life they often wonder what their purpose for living was.  Searching for answers some people may think “Maybe it’s about family.”  Others may think they made a difference in the planet by helping the environment but we all search for meaning at the end of our life.  What’s my life all about?  I submit to you this thought, only that which will live on in eternity matters.  Of the eternal things there is nothing more important than a soul saved from hell.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. – John 3:16-17

This is the most quoted verse ever but do we really understand it?  God doesn’t want anyone to perish and go to hell.  In fact, this is such an important concept that He was willing to separate the Trinity and send the Son to earth…to earth to suffer and die.  That’s how important the salvation of each and every person is the Lord.

Then he (the thief on the cross) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:26-43

Even in His very last moments on earth Jesus was still reaching out to others, saving them from damnation.  He was clear on what His purpose in life was, ‘to seek and save those that are lost.’  We need to understand that the very reason we are still on this planet is to help connect others to Christ and to help them gain heaven.

Worshiping God is very important, but worship is better in heaven.  Studying the word of God is a key to our lives but Jesus is the Word made flesh and will spend all of eternity revealing new facets of Himself to us.  Fellowship with the saints (church) is important for our spiritual growth but we will be fellowshipping forever with all the saints in heaven.  There is only one thing we can do here on earth that we can not do in heaven, win a convert for Christ.

Our very purpose here on this planet, the reason we are still taking in breath is to make Christ known to others.  So why don’t we think about it more?  Why don’t we do anything we can to reach people for Christ, every day?

Prayer

Dear Jesus, please forgive me for not sharing the gospel more.  Forgive me for fearing what people would think more than them going to hell. Jesus help me to follow YOUR example. Even on the cross you were saving a soul from hell.  Cause me to have compassion for people that are far from you, even if they are difficult people to be around.  Give me opportunity to tell them the good news of salvation and give me the boldness to speak. Amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • Do I believe that saving souls from heaven is the call of every believer?
  • When was the last time I saw someone I prayed for or shared Christ with become a disciple of Jesus?  (A disciple is not someone who says a prayer but someone who leaves there old life and follows Jesus.)

Action List

  • Write down and pray for 3 people that do not follow Christ, for the next week.
  • Pick at least one of those people and spend time with them within the next week.  (Look for divine opportunities to talk about God or pray for them but don’t force it.  Build relationship first.)

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 14: A Godly Perspective

God’s View of Life is Different Than Ours

The Lord doesn’t view our lives the way we do.  His perspective is as different from ours as ours is from an ant we are watching.  As we look down on the ground from our chair we can see where the ant will walk if he keeps going forward, where a good food source may be and even potential predators. God understands our live as He looks on as the one who sees all time and space instantly.  He knows the best path to take through life.

Consider this conversation between Peter and Jesus.  First, let me give you the background.  Peter just told Jesus He is the Messiah, Jesus tells Peter that only God could have revealed that to you.  The rest of the boys are slapping Peter on the back.  He’s feeling pretty good about himself then something funny happens.

From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”  Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”  – Matthew 16:21-23

Jesus knew it was necessary for Him to die.  Peter didn’t.  Jesus had the eternal perspective that his death, however brutal and painful would lead to His resurrection and ultimately our salvation.  To Peter it was unthinkable!  He’s thinking, “We just found out for sure that you’re the Messiah.  There’s no way God would want you to suffer and certainly won’t let them kill you!”  We don’t see things from God’s perspective; therefore we don’t always understand the way life goes.

Through it all we must trust that God has a plan.  We must understand that He sees things differently from us.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

It reminds me of a story I read. There was a picture-perfect small town in Maine.  You know the kind you would see immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting.  The government informed the townsfolk that it would be building a hydroelectric dam nearby.  The dam would cause the town to flood. The officials told the town’s people that they would be paid and relocated to new homes. The town was scheduled to be demolished in less than 3 years just before the dam was finished. During those 3 years the town stopped repairing the roads, no one painted their house, they even stopped cutting their lawns.  The quaint town became terribly rundown. When a reporter enquired as to why this had happened, it was explained this way, “When there’s no faith in the future, there’s no power in the present.”

We must live our lives with faith that God will give us a future and a hope for eternity in heaven. Without this eternal perspective on the future we become hopeless and we allow our ‘spiritual houses’ to fall apart.  You may not understand everything you go through in life but trust the one who does.  Keep up your spiritual disciplines to stay connected to Christ and HIS plan for you.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that no matter how severe the trial I am in today, that it is temporary. Amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • Have I let my ‘spiritual house’ fall apart?
  • Do I trust God with my decisions or do I have to keep control of my life?

Action List

  • Do a ‘spiritual house cleaning’ by repenting of any sins.
  • Continue the cleaning by forgiving anyone who has hurt you.
  • Begin to repair the house by reading and praying daily as well as going to church weekly.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional: Day 13 – What do You Believe about the End?

As we are examining how we would live if we had 30 Days to Live, it occurs to me that there has been an increasing emphasis on the end of life lately.  The world has been discussing the end of the earth, as we know it, with the 2012 hysteria and even the Left Behind series.  I have always avoided looking at the end times controversies until this year because I felt it was more important to look at how to live today.  I now realize that what you believe about the end of your life will influence how you live today.  Also…

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. – 2 Timothy 3:16

Therefore, then even the book of Revelation will affect how we would live our last month on this earth.  Are we searching for deeper understanding or are just receiving whatever the latest fictional novel tells us? It’s really the whole fear-based and defeatist approaches I object to.  It is because of this that some times I gloss over end-time passages of scriptures. I used to believe that they were not relevant to today.   I’ve even made jokes like, “I’m a pan-millennialist.  It’ll all pan out in the end.”  Ok, enough with the collective groan.  It was funny in the 1990s.

So, when my many people in our church wanted to do a study on the Book of Revelation in regards to the 2012 Predictions in the news, I reluctantly agreed.   One of the things we learned was, HOW a person approaches the end of life, greatly influences HOW they live their time on the earth.

If a follower of Jesus has an “escape mentality” that God won’t let us suffer then if they face a 30 Days to Live death sentence from a doctor their faith may be rocked. An example of this happened in China. Mao Zedong and his regime slaughtered over a million people with over 50 million people dying under his dictatorship eventually. I am told that when the communist dictator took over and began to kill all Christians who wouldn’t denounce Christ, locals believed him to the Anti-Christ of the Book or Revelation.  Hundreds of thousands of believers backslid. They denounced their faith not just because of the threat of death but because they actually lost their faith.  Why?  Because they believed God would catch them away in rapture before this kind of persecution.  The thought, “If we were wrong about that maybe we were wrong about everything.” became the attack on their faith.

The attitude that “the end of the world doesn’t matter” can also be damaging.  How?  If a follower of Jesus never considers how their life will end they may live for the present only instead of eternity.  We should live like we only have 30 Days Left to Live.

Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. – Revelation 1:17-18

We don’t need to fear the death, the grave or even the end of the world because they One who created it all in the beginning will be there to bring us home in the end.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to remember that we will all stand before your holy throne of judgment someday. Help me to live today with eternity in mind, thinking of your holiness as I make decisions. Help me not to compromise with sin.  Amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • If God were to ask you why should He let you into heaven what would you say?
  • What would you say to a person searching for truth who asked you about the end times?

Action List

  • If there is a sin you’re struggling with, confess it to your Small Group Leader or a trusted Christian friend.
  • Live today with eternity influencing your decisions.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 11: Love Requires Forgiveness

When people face their last 30 Days to Live, they often turn to forgive those that have hurt them or ask forgiveness from those they have harmed. Why do we wait?  Jesus was very clear that regarding our need to forgive others.

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15

This may seem qute harsh but when we understand how the Kingdom of God works, it makes complete sense.  The Lord has told us He alone is the judge. When we refuse to forgive someone, we make ourselves that person’s judge.  In effect we are saying that we want God’s job.  He never has tolerated that, just ask an angel named Lucifer.  If we want God to forgive us, we must forgive others, otherwise we must rely on our own righteousness for forgiveness.  As we know, that won’t work.

When someone has 30 Days to Live there are two motivating factors to fogive. First, the need to be right with God before facing Him.  As the verses we just read in Matthew teach us, we have to forgive to be ready to face the Father.  Second, as people prepare to leave loved ones they realize that life is too short to not forgive.  Suddenly they remember that love is the highest goal of humanity.

Let love e your highest goal. – 1 Corinthians 14:1

The ability to forgive is the ability to love.  If we are making love our highest goal, forgiveness is required.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  – Colossians 3:13-14

Pauil is telling the Colossian church, that clothing ourselves in love is the highest goal.  He tells us how to do this, overlook people’s faults and forgive them when they hurt you.  I have to laugh when Christians say, “I’m not offended, just hurt.”  Is there a difference?

Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. – 1 Corinthians 13:5

When I’m counsling someone and I ask them if they have any unforgiveness towards people they will say no.  When I ask them who has hurt you?  Well, then I get a list.  We must be honest with ourselves if we want to be right with God.  if you have been keeping a record of of how they have hurt you then you are not walking in love.  If you have been hurt by someone, choose to forgive them today.

The person who is devoid of the power to forgive
is devoid of the power to love. – Martin Luther King Jr.

We can’t truly love without forgiving.  If we don’t love then, we don’t know God.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, you see the people that have hurt me.  I choose today to forgive them and ask you to supernaturally give me the ability to completely forgive them.  I ask you to forigve me for having offenses and unforgiveness.  Cleanse me in your precious blood and forgive my sins as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  In your name I pray, amen.

Thoughts for Today

  • Who has hurt me?  Does it still hurt to think about it now?  If so, have I really forgiven them?
  • Is there anyone I need to ask to forgive me?

Action List

  • Ask a person you know you’ve hurt to forgive you.
  • Forgive one person this week that you never thought you could forgive.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 10: Why Should I Love?

As a person approaches death, facing their final 30 days, they usually turn towards those they love.  Most people don’t ask to work extra hours, or even take one more trip.  They certainly don’t wish for more TV or screen time.  They ask to see their loved ones.  They even reach out to relatives and friends they haven’t talked to in years.  Dying people try to mend broken relationships with their last breaths. Look at this verse:

Let love be your highest goal! – 1 Corinthians 14:1

As people face their last thirty days it all suddenly becomes crystal clear.  Like the morning sun breaking through a cloud bank, they see for the maybe the first time, what’s most important…LOVE.  Why wait?  If love is the highest goal, the most important thing, we should love now.

Another reason we should we love like we’re dying is because love is one of the few things in this world that actually is eternal.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Of these few eternal things, love is the greatest. Faith in the living God will be carried into the next life.  Hope in the eternal bliss of heaven carries us through our last 30 days to live but the one thing we can aspire to that is the greatest is love.  Poets have mused about it, song-writers have sang its praises but how many people truly understand love.  To begin to understand why we should love, we must start by understanding that love is eternal.

Jesus thought it was so important to love that He made it a commandment.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. – John 15:12

Jesus commands us to give that same kind of unchanging, self-sacrificing love He gave us to others.  We CAN love like Him or He wouldn’t command us to.  He’s not a cruel prankster, giving His followers a command that He won’t give them the ability to carry out.  No.  We can love like Jesus because He lives in us by His Spirit.

Today, love someone the way Christ loved you.  Looking past the sin, their harshness, even their rejection of the gospel to love them.  If you do, you’ll be a little close to Christ then when you started the day.

Prayer:

Lord help me to love as you have loved me, not looking at people’s faults and sins but at their potential.  Father I choose to forgive them for how they have hurt me because you forgave me all the times I’ve hurt you.  Fill me with your love right now that I my love as you do.

Thoughts for Today:

  • Do I show the love of Christ on a daily basis to people I’m around?
  • if love were the only measurement of Christianity would my neighbors know I’m a Christian?

Action List:

  • Do a random act of kindness to someone today to show God’s love.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 9: What Good is Suffering?

God works in every circumstance for those that are His children. We see good or bad but God sees opportunity in either.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

So, if God works good in everything for those who follow Him, then why do we suffer?  We are never closer to God then when we suffer.  Yes, we may get mad at Him during loss or unjust treatment but ultimately we end up with nowhere else to go.

Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.  – John 6:67-68

When things go bad we realize like at no other time that there is nowhere else to turn but Him.  When it’s really bad, people can’t help.  It has to be God.

If God works good for me in all things what’s the good in this horrible situation?  Well if nothing else we turn to God in a deeper way, and that is important indeed.  See God is more concerned with our character than He is our comfort.  He is more concerned about eternal treasure in heaven than temporary trials here on earth, more concerned about our relationship with Him than our success in this life. He’s not uncaring; He just has a different perspective on our lives than we do.

The words of King David give us hope if we’re in a trial of our own making.  David committed adultery and then murder to cover the affair, yet after that He was called a man after God’s own heart AFTER these sins.  Why because he repented and turned to God. (Read the story yourself in 2 Samuel 12.)

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. – Psalm 6:9

God heard David’s prayer and accepted them.  If you’re hurting because of your own sin, it’s ok.  God has already forgiven you and is waiting to use even that situation for the good I your life.  Talk to Him about it right now.

Prayer:

Lord help me to not wait until there’s a problem to turn to you but to seek you each day.  When I do fall into trails, help me to remember you are there, and to seek you immediately.  I will not to blame you for my problems or suffering because I know you love me.  I trust you Lord.  I know there’s nothing I can face today that you and I can’t handle together.

Thoughts for Today:

  • Am I serious about my prayer life or do I just call out God when I need Him?
  • Have I been afraid to turn to God for help because I thought He wouldn’t answer?

Action List:

  • Spend time with God today telling Him how you’re hurting and asking Him to help.

30 Days to Live, Day 7: Do you want a good life?

Do you want a good life?

I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! – Deuteronomy 30:19

It sound silly but we have to choose to have a better life.  He wasn’t saying choose between “suicide and breathing.”  The Lord made it clearer by saying choose between blessing and cursing, between having a good life and terrible one.  Choose between hope for the future (That’s what He was talking about when He mentioned your descendants.) and hopelessness.

Do you want a good life?  It seems like a silly question but it’s not.  Our choices play a huge part in determining how good are life is.  God says choose life or death and then just in case we can’t get it, He say “OH!!!! That you would choose life!”  He’s yelling louder than any coach, “Please! Choose right! I love you and want you to have a good life.”

So, do you want a good life? Then choose to follow the ways that will bring God’s blessing, not the devil’s curses.

These 30 days can be the greatest spiritual growth of your entire life, if you’ll choose to do the work, to learn, to change, to have a good life.  I’m choosing change, I’m choosing LIFE.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, help me to choose life today.  Help me to avoid that patterns that cause me to make poor choices. I give you my fears that may keep me from making good and Godly choices.

Thoughts for Today

  • What choices do I make that make my life harder?
  • How can I choose blessing instead of cursing today?

Action List

  • Make a good choice today that you have been putting off!
  • Choose to put God first today by spending 15 minutes with Him.

Facing Our Fear of Forever

Facing Our Fear of Forever We Find Freedom

I’ve had the privilege of being with many people as they face their last 30 days on this earth.  People facing death receive a new freedom, a “license” to say what they really feel and to do what they really want.  What keeps us from doing that now?  Fear of what people think.

Jesus was free of the need to please people, to gain their approval.  He rebuked the influential pharisees and refused to be intimidated by the powerful authorities in the Roman government.  Jesus knew He would be dying soon and therefore what was there to fear from people?

Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28

What would you do differently if you no longer had to worry about what other people thought?  If you only had one calendar page left to flip? Would you go to a mission field and not worry about having your own home?  Would you tell everyone knew about God’s grace because you now feared facing Him soon more than the rejection of others?  When you suddenly worry not hearing “well done good and faithful servant” nothing else matters.

Facing Our Fear of Forever We Find Faith

“Death is the thing most feared because it appears to be the end of everything.” – Aristotle

The fear of death comes from not knowing what happens when our eyes close for the last time on this earth.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

When we realize for the Christian that death is but a shadow of something passing that can’t touch us, we gain faith.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25

Do you believe this?  Then live like it.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, trust in the promise of heaven.  Help me today to not fear death nor fear what people think.  Help me today to live like I was dying.

Thoughts for Today

  • Do you fear death? If so why?  Aren’t you sure of heaven?
  • What would you say to someone if you knew you had 30 days to live?

Action List

  • Talk to one person that you’ve been avoiding and be honest.
  • If you’re not sure that you would go to heaven, ask Jesus to forgive you and save you right now.  Give Him your life and surrender control to Him as your Lord.

Day One: Trusting God

Before we can begin a journey to become the person we were always meant to be, we must begin by trusting the one who knows our future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6

I have heard people say, “Trust is earned.” or “A person must show themselves to BE trustworthy before I’ll trust them.” I want to ask a question…Has the Jesus done enough to earn our trust?

As I look at His sacrifice on the cross to pay the price for my sin, I must answer a resounding YES! He gave everything to earn our trust. King David proclaimed God’s trustworthiness by attaching it to God’s character.

All He does is just and good, and all His commandments are trustworthy. – Psalm 111:7

If God is just and good then all He asks us to do must be just and good. Therefore, we can trust what He says. The commandments He gives us in scripture are worthy of us trusting and building our lives on. Often people make the mistake of not following the teaching of scripture because they don’t trust that is the best thing for them. It looks better to go another way…but if He is trustworthy, then what He asks us to do we can trust in also, even if we don’t understand why He asks.

What area of your life have you not surrendered to Him? What have you not trusted Him with? Maybe the issue is one of not trusting in His justice enough to forgive someone who has hurt you. Perhaps you have trouble trusting God to bring you all you need therefore you try to make it happen on your own and date someone who isn’t a disciple of Jesus. For many people it is not being able to trust in the supernatural. How can I make ends meet if I give God 10% of my money as He commands? All of these examples have logical, rationalizations for disobeying God, but when really you look at them, they are all trust issues.

Trust Him enough to surrender the next month to Him…

Prayer

Dear Jesus, trust is earned by love shown. You showed your love for me by dying for my sins on the cross. Help me to receive that love fully today and completely trust you.

Thoughts for Today

  • Write down what God has spoken to you or simply what you’re thinking.

Action List

  • At least one action I will do for the next 30 days or one change I will make.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional

What would I do differently if I only had 30 Days to live? That’s quite a concept.  Most people give a flippant answer such as “quit my job and max out my credit cards”.  I don’t think that is what most people who really have one month left on this earth.  Take the 30 Day challenge to become the person you want to be in eternity.

Introduction

I’m so glad you decided to take this 30 day challenge to change they way we live.  It is my prayer that this resource will help us to Connect to God in a significant way.

This e-devotional is meant only as a tool, it doesn’t contain the answers to life’s big questions BUT God can use it to communicate to you.

If you will take these four simple steps I believe God will greatly impact your life in a powerfully positive way.

  1. Every morning, ask yourself what you would do if you had one month to live—then live that way.
  2. Each day read this e-devotional, pray 5 minutes about its contents and act on the changes you wish to make.
  3. Each day read scripture for 5 minutes. I also recommend the One Month to Live book as a reading resource
  4. Write down the top 3 changes you would make if you had One Month to Live.  At the end of these 30 days, evaluate where you are in making those changes.

Sound good?  Then let’s get started!!

Pastor Lon

Someday Syndrome

Are you suffering from the “Someday Syndrome”? Someday, I’ll go to college, someday, I’ll quit smoking, someday, I’ll clean the clutter off my desk, someday, I’ll get healthier, someday, I’ll live for God, someday, I’ll spend more time with family, someday, I’ll get my finances in order, when I have more time, when the kids are older, when I feel better, when work isn’t so crazy, someday, someday…someday never comes.

This Easter we will begin a journey called 30 Days to Live. This journey will focus on helping us to stop waiting for “someday” and make the most of our lives.

When Christ came to this earth He had a purpose in mind, saving you and me.  He kept that purpose in the forefront of His mind because He knew His time on earth was short.

“Why did you need to search for me?” He asked. “Didn’t you know that I must about my Father’s business?” – Luke 2:49

He kept focused on the task with the urgency of a builder facing a deadline.  Have you ever had a school paper or a work project due tomorrow that you scrambled to finish on time?  We all have.  Starting Sunday we’re gonna live like we’re dying, to quote the lyrics of Kris Allen.

What if you only had 30 Days to Live?  How would you live differently?  What’s keeping you from doing that now?

Trust is Earned

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6

I have heard people say, “Trust is earned.” or “A person must show themselves to BE trustworthy before I’ll trust them.”  I want to ask a question…Has the Jesus done enough to earn our trust?

King David proclaimed God’s trustworthiness by attaching it to God’s character.

All He does is just and good, and all His commandments are trustworthy. – Psalm 111:7

If God is just and good then all He asks us to do must be just and good.  Therefore, we can trust what He says. The commandments He gives us in scripture are worthy of us trusting and building our lives on.

What are you building your life on?

I want to encourage you today, trust the Lord.  Trust Him with your hopes, your dreams, your future.  Trust Him with you relationships, your career, your present situations.  Trust Him with your past, your hurts, your disappointments,  your failures, your betrayals, your sins.

What part of your life have you not given to Him?

God Exists

A man went to a barber shop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.  As the barber began to work, they talked about so many things and various subjects.   When they eventually touched on the subject of God.

The barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the customer.
“Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist.   Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?  Would there be abandoned children?  If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine loving a God who would allow all of these things.”
“The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond.

The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop.  Just after he left the barber shop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard.   He looked dirty and un-kept.  The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber:

“You know what? Barbers do not exist. ”
“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber.”I am here, and I am a barber.   And I just worked on you!”
“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.”
“Ah, but barbers DO exist!   What happens is, people do not come to me.”
“Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s the point!  God, too, DOES exist!  What happens, is, people don’t go to Him and do not look for Him.   That’s why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.”

I know this is just a cheesy joke but the principle is true.  People dismiss God’s existance simply because they see evil and suffering in the world.  The existence of evil doesn’t negate the existence of a loving God who wants to help.

Lessons on Forgiveness

What did we learn from the recent FORGIVEN series? I like to ask questions like that to assess the effectiveness of what we are doing as a church.  If we are having “God ideas” and teaching God’s word then lives should be changing.  Evaluation is healthy and necessary to avoid the deception that dead religious organizations fall into.

Before we answer that questions let me say that I am personally so very thankful for Charlie & Judy Pucillo, Ted & Gayle Haggard, and Bill Morgan for sharing their triumphant stories of forgiving and being forgiven.  Without them and their courage the series would never have had the impact upon the lives of so many.

What did we learn? Well, we learned that God could forgive our most heinous sins, that even an adulterer can be forgiven.  We learned that liars, homosexuals, prostitutes, drug addicts, criminals, hypocrites, and yes, even fallen preachers could be forgiven.  We heard from people who wore those labels like badges of honor.

Then came the hard part for most of us. We learned that we can and must forgive all sins against ourselves to be forgiven.  We learned that with God’s help we can forgive an unfaithful spouse, a trusted loved-one who lied to us, a friend who betrayed us, a pastor who let our trust down, a parent who abandoned us and more!  We heard that we can forgive a person who molested us when we were young. We can forgive rapists even when they have no remorse! Unbelievable, unthinkable, yet true and possible.

We learned that we can forgive God when He didn’t protect us the way we thought He would.  We can forgive God when He let’s a parent go to heaven when they are way too young instead of healing them.

We learned that all things are possible with God, even unforgivable things being FORGIVEN.

Ted & Gayle Haggard

Someone asked me recently, “Why would you have Ted Haggard in your church?”  My response was “Because we preach that God can forgive anyone for their sin.”

For the two or three people out there who may not know who Ted is.  He was the most powerful Evangelical Leader in the United States three years ago.  The head of the National Association of Evangelicals with 30 million members, an advisor to the President of the United States and the Sr. Pastor of a church of 14,000 members in Colorado Springs.  Then came the scandal that rocked the church world.  He was caught with male prostitutes. All the major news sources covered the scandal. Some like CNN and Larry King featured the story for months. HBO did a one-hour special on the Haggards. They have even been on Oprah twice.

My initial response to the story was one of disgust.  I personally judged him very harshly and was privately critical. (Thank God I don’t believe in criticizing people publically or using the pulpit to bash people.)  I know many of my pastor friends felt the same way, “Hypocrites like Haggard give us all a bad name.”  So what changed my mind?

I saw an interview with Ted and Gayle at Steve Furtick’s Elevation Church.  I respect Steve and was curious as to why he had Ted in.  Their story broke my heart.  I actually cried watching it.  We always hear testimonies of people who were sinners then saved from their sin.  “I was an addict, then Jesus set me free.”  “I was hopeless and suicidal, then I became a Christian.”  We never hear stories of fallen Christians being restored.

I decided to have them tell their story, a story of forgiveness.  A story that is important for all of us to hear. First for those that think “It could never happen to me.” and more importantly for all the Christians out there struggling with a secret sin but who are too afraid of rejection to ask for help.  There’s hope for you.  We will help you get free and guard your dignity.

I can’t close this blog without mentioning the heroine of this story, Gayle.  She had biblical grounds for divorce, no one would have blamed her for leaving but as she told Oprah, “I prayed and felt God told me to stay.”  She shared that with God’s help she thought she could forgive Ted and with much counseling work to restore their marriage.  Wow.  She truly forgave “all sins against her” as scripture teaches.

Learn that we can all be FORGIVEN this Sunday at 10am. Then at the Women’s Meeting at 6pm, hear how you can forgive those who have hurt you.  God Bless.

Note: I did check with Tommy Barnett’s church and a church in Texas that have been in charge of Ted’s counseling, inner healing and restoration.  They fell he has done everything asked of him over the last three years.  Ted isn’t restored to ministry as of the writing this blog.  I will be interviewing them not having Ted preach.

Facing Forever

We brought my mother home from the hospital, home to face forever.  The doctors say that she will leave this earth soon, leave it forever.  Nothing more they can do they say.  I know my God is a healer but somehow I know that’s not part of His plan here.  As we mournfully, painfully, watch her breathing slow we begrudgingly acknowledge that she will soon be facing forever.  Was she ready?

I prayed a week ago, “Lord either heal her or wake her to give me a chance to talk with her about forever.”  I know my mom had asked Jesus to be her Lord and Savior, to forgive her sins.  she had attended church for almost two years with me while she was well enough and we would pray, talk scripture and take communion together at home when she could no longer go to church.  I had only one concern really, unforgiveness.  Had she forgiven all sins against her?

The Lord gave me my petition and she awoke, clear minded and able to talk for over a day.  She spoke that she had forgiven all who had hurt her.  Then I had the honor of leading her to pray asking God to forgive her sins again.

Mom told me she love me and that she was ready to face forever, knowing she would spend it with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Now I’m ready too.

What If…? Guarding Our Minds

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. –  2 Corinthians 10:4-5

There’s a battlefield raging.  A place where planes called unknown drop bombs of fear and paratroopers of worry bombard day and night looking for a place to land and dig in.  That place is our mind.

To set up a defense against this aerial assault we must capture these rebellious thoughts and make them obey Christ.  What if I lose my job? What if I get cancer?  What if I can’t get into a good college? What if I never get married? What if… What if?

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? – Matthew 6:27

Worry is a meaningless waste of time at best!  At it’s worst; left unchecked it can kill you.  Worry actually creates biochemical reactions in our bodies. Doctors tell us worry can lead to a variety of illness ranging from indigestion to heart attack!

How can we control worry, capture those random fearful thoughts?

1. Look at what we are thinking about.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  – Philippians 4:8

Think about good things.  It’s simple but profound.  When you find yourself thinking “What if…” change the channel!  We have the ability to tell ourselves, “That’s not a thought from God.” And think about something else.

2. Look at who are you listening to?

Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. – Mark 4:24

Why would you take advice from someone whose life is a mess?  First listen to the word of God and what it has to say about you.  Then let the Spirit of God speak to you in prayer but then get around godly men and women who will speak truth!

Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for bad company corrupts good character. – 1 Corinthians 15:33

3. Look at where your focus is.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

The Israelites were told to go into the Promised Land in Numbers 13.  They found what God had told them.  Grapes the size of basketballs!  A land flowing with milk and honey.  BUT they didn’t focus on the blessings, only the obstacles.  Yeah the fruit is awesome BUT there are giants.  Yeah it’s just like God said a good land BUT the cities are fortified and impossible to conquer!  BUT BUT BUT.  Don’t be a Butthead!  Don’t’ focus on the obstacles, focus on what God has promised you.

Capture the “What Ifs” before they paralyze in a quagmire of indecision, afraid to move.

Fearless: Why Are You Afraid?

In Matthew chapter 8 there is an unusual story.  A story where Jesus seems harsh when He should have been understanding.  The disciples are out on a boat when SUDDENLY a storm arose, not just any storm a fierce storm.  The kind of storm that makes seasoned fisherman weak in the knees.  The kind of storm that would make a non-sailor like Matthew cry out for help.  Here’s the peculiar part though…Jesus was sleeping in the boat during this storm.

He seemed to be completely indifferent to their situation.  They are working the rigging frantically.  Maybe someone was bailing water as the waves spilled into the boat.  Jesus slept.

There are times when suddenly we fighting for our lives:  Cancer, bankruptcy, divorce, heart attack, unemployment, betrayal, addiction returning, child leaving the faith, jail, depression…and we call out “Help I’m being overwhelmed!  I’m going under!”  and there is no answer from heaven.  This storm was like that.  The sea raged. The boat rocked out of control. The men yelled in frantic fear. Jesus slept.

Mark’s version of the story includes and interesting twist…

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” – Mark 4:38

Mark records what all of us think but most don’t dare speak. “Lord don’t you care that I’m suffering?”  There’s an accusation sometimes in our prayers because we wonder if He truly cares.

The rest of Matthew chapter 8 was filled with the miracles and compassion of Jesus.  A leper healed, a demon-possessed man set free, even Peter’s mother-in-law healed.  (A blessing Peter never asked for haha.)  Jesus taught them about faith with the Roman Centurian asked Jesus to “speak the word and my servant will be healed.”

In this context Jesus’ response makes perfect sense.  He asks them, “Why are you afraid? and “Why do you have too little faith?”  He must have thought: You’ve watch my miracles moments ago.  You’ve learned of my authority over the circumstances of life. AND you know I’m right here with you.  Why do you still doubt my love?

Max Lucado says that “Fear creates a form of spiritual amnesia.” (Fearless pg. 10)  We forget how much God loves us and how He will never leave us or forsake us.  Faith comes through hearing God’s word and remembering His love.

We start a series this week entitled: Fearless: Living a Life Free from Fear, Worry & Anxiety. Come learn how to overcome fear with faith so you can stand through life’s sudden storms.

Encouragement

We all need encouragement sometimes but what should we do when it seems there is no one to encourage us?  The answer comes from King David.

David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD His God. – 1 Samuel 30:6 (kjv)

David encouraged HIMSELF in God.  There comes a point where you have to encourage yourself.  The people you thought were with you turn on you. You have no one to help you.

In David’s life he survived his leader turning on him (Saul), his family attcking him (Absalom), his own sin (that whole Bathsheba thing) and his friends that have pledged loyalty to him talking about stoning him.  How did he do it?  He learned early this simple truth, sometimes there’s only God and you so you have to get your encouragement directly from Him yourself.

David rehearse the past protection of the Lord to encourage himself.

The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine! – 1 Samuel 17:37

Stand on the promise that God won’t allow you to be tempted more than you can take.  He will rescue you before you are overwhelmed.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.
God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.
– 1 Corinthians 10:13

In closing, there are times when we must encourage ourselves.  The best ways to do this is to remember the good things God has done and to rehearse His promises to us such as the one just mentioned in 1 Cor 10:13.  So no matter what you’re going through, choose to encourage yourself today.

Seek & Respond Well to Change

We heard a great message from Pastor Randy Hartwig called “Change the Key to Victorious Christianity”. Here’s some of the highlights:

Change is a Constant Process for a Victorious Christian.

2 Cor. 3:18 – We who reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory…

A Christian who doesn’t want to change is like a caterpiller that doesn’t want to become a butterfly.  We need to actively seek change to become all that God wants us to be.

Change opens the fullness of God’s Kingdom to us.

Matt 18:1-4 – Jesus teaches us that unless we change and become like a little child we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven.

Change Brings Revival.

Look at the great revivals that God has brought, they are almost always preceded by a change in thinking and methodology.  For example:

  • Martin Luther changes our doctrine when he reveals salvation by faith not works
  • The Baptists reveal the truth of full water immersion for believers after salvation
  • Pentacostals bring the restoration of the Gifts of The Spirit including healing, speaking in tongues and prophesy

Are you a spiritual pioneer or a settler?  Pioneers push beyond the known limits to conquer new frontiers, to expand the Kingdom…

Life, a Marathon not a Sprint

I can’t count the number of times in the last four years I’ve wanted to resign from ministry because of discouragement, conflict, feeling under appreciated or the disappointment that can only come from watching  people leaving the Lord’s will for their life.  When you feel this way remember the only way you lose is if you quit.

Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. – Philippians 2:16

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Any marathon runner will tell you that there are multiple times you want to quit either in training or the race itself. Here’s some things to remember…

1. Remember God’s words (either in scripture or personally) God has promised for your life. Hold fast to the word of life, they bring hope when you see none in your circumstances.

2. Remember that nothing we do (if done for the Lord and not our own desires) is done in vain.

3. Remember not to compare. It’s never wise to compare yourself to someone else because you don’t know what they walked through to get to that place or how their race will finish (2 Corithians 10:12).

Woody Allen said half of life was just showing up. I don’t know about that but I know half of life is not quitting.  So brush off those skinned knees, sake a sip of living water and start jogging again.  You’ll finish the race and hear “well done” if you just don’t quit.

10 Ways to Enhance Your Worship Service Experience

Have you ever left a church service and felt “I didn’t get anything out of that.”?  I think we all have.  It’s bad when the pastor says that…haha. Now, have you ever left a church service feeling that way AND heard someone else say, “Wow!  That was awesome.  I really met with God.”?  That’s a real eye opener.

I recently spoke to someone who said when they heard the excitement other people had they began looking at themself.  When they heard there were people saved, baptised and set free and they didn’t feel excitement, the knew it was them.  So how do adjust ourselves to get the most out of a worship experience and keep ourselves from growing indifferent?  Here’s 10 ways to enhance our worship experience.

1. Come Expecting a Good Service – As James taught us (James 1:6-7), we need to expect God to answer us.  This simple step many times bring the change in attitude we need.

2. Minimize Distractions – If there is a person who is always chatty near you, move.  I actually started sitting towards the front because I am visually distracted by people.

3. Change Your Routine – Sit in a different seat, serve as an usher, walk up front during worship (if your church culture allows that), visit a different church one Sunday, (Pastors don’t em-mail me it’s alright really.)  whatever it takes for some variety.

4. Hang Around After Service and Talk – You’ll be surprised how much chatting with some people for ten minutes will brighten your day.

5. Come Early – If your church has a place or time to pray do it, if not hang in the lobby and chat.  Bring an extra coffee and surprise someone with it.  Force yourself to be social.

6. Greet a New Person – Remember the first time you came to church? Help someone else to not feel nervous.  Say hello. Ask them if you can answer any questions for them.

7. Serve – Nothing adds the meaning of a worship experience like knowing you had a part in it being put together.  When someone reaches for the tissues you put there, it more than just blowing their nose.  They aren’t distracted loking for tissues so they heard the message and accepted Jesus for the first time as Savior. Guess what? You had a part in their escaping from hell.

8. Take Notes – We only remember 10% of what we hear but when we write it the % doubles.  If we review the notes later it triples.  It’s the eternal word of God, don’t treat it as common or unimportant.

9. Invite an Unchurched Friend – Nothing is more meaningful than seeing your church or even God through someone else’s eyes.  If that person meets the Lord and their life changes, it will be your best worship experience ever.

10. Experience God BEFORE the Service – Most Christians that don’t get anything out of the worship experience aren’t experiencing God during the week either.  I don’t know why but it’s like a cup that is being filled all week, smaller drops make it over flow.

Get to the church early and pray.  Ask God to meet with you. Ask Him to forgive you sins, forgive others who sinned against you that week.  Then give Him you issues, any distracting things and you’ll be ready.

Do these 10 things I guarentee you’ll have a meaningful and fulfilling worship experience!

Table Manners

The family dinner is really a lost art.  People are too busy. Working late, running to soccer practice, after school activities, grabbing a burger on the run, to busy to sit at the table together as a family.

We’ve made a commitment to sit together as a family for dinner 4 nights a week. That might not seem like enough but when trying to plan the schedule of 6 people, it’s a good start.  We eat together more than we don’t.

Take a look at your dinner schedule for the last week.  How often was the whole family (that lives under the same roof) together for dinner?  If you’re not at home for meals together, your lives are out of balance.  It’s time to emphasize what is important.   Commit to the 4 out 7 goal.  You’ll be glad you did!

Born To Die

We’re all born with a purpose to our lives.  Jesus was born to die.  His very purpose was to die for us so that we can find our purpose.  From the moment of His birth Jesus was a dead man walking.  Really, we all are…

Paul said, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Why did Paul say that the most important thing to pass on is Christ’s death, burial and ressurection?  Because without His death their is no resurrection, without the resurrection, He hasn’t conquered death.  if Jesus didn’t rise then we won’t.  If He didn’t die then death still has power over us.
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

As Christ followers we are to go where He went.  To pick up our cross and follow Him.  The cross, an instrument of death and torture.  Jesus was calling us to die.  To die to our own life and to rise again in a new life, but it doesn’t end there.  Being born-again is only the beginning.

We must daily pick up the instrument of our death and follow Him.  Carry our own elecric chair, plug it, sit down and strap ourselves in.  Death of our own selfish desires, our own purpose of what we thing we should be doing it the only way to find God’s purpose.

A Life Time of Growth

Tom Holladay said people have one of three experiences in spiritual growth:

Some people have a one-time experience of growth.
Many people have a time to time experience of growth.
You can enjoy a lifetime experience of growth.

One-Time Growth  – I would also call event growth, meaning an event happened that caused a sudden burst of growth.  A retreat, a camp, a conference, a service, a prophesy or specific altar call can cause us to leap forward in a moment in understanding or commitment.

The issue always is do we use it to build on?  Have you ever seen a youth group that came back from an awesome summer camp only to have some of the members leave church that fall?  The experience wasn’t used as a spring board to a lifestyle change.

Time to Time Growth – This is the type of growth where people do very well for a while but then either because they get distracted, too busy or offended they begin to back away from church and God in general.  We need each other to grow.  We must be rooted deep enough that when strong winds blow we aren’t uprooted.

“Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from Him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught.  Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all He has done.”  Colossians 2:7

Be thankful for where you are at and stay strong.  I know so many people who leave their church and end up bitter, dried up Christians that are no longer really disciples of Jesus because they only had periods of growth and then periods of lack.

A Lifetime of Growth – This doesn’t refer to never making a mistake, never stumbling, but overall making progress.  I’ve always said, “If you’re the same Christian next year as you are this year, you’re out of God’s will.”  God wants us to go forward!

“So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.”  1 Corinthians 9:26 (TLB)

To grow over the long journey of life requires commitment. Nothing worthwhile comes quickly or easily.

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”  2 Chronicles 16:9

Commitment keeps us doing the right thing when we don’t feel like it.  Commit to a life of holiness, studying, praying, church attendance, serving and giving.  Only then do we sustain growth over many years.

I’m Back

Well after a long absence due to holidays and a 3 week battle with pneumonia I’m finally back to blogging.  I apologize for the long absence.  Here’s a little catch up.

As we look at a new year we begin to take stock of our last year and our future. 2008 was a hard year, we battled sickness and buried a close friend whose loss still stings daily, but  I’m very thankful for the things God did in 2008 also.  We saw 38 people bow their knee to Jesus as their Savior for the first time and over 100 rededicate their lives to serving Christ afresh.  There were 65 new people added to our church and several people healed.  In the midst of trial and tragedy God built His Kingdom.  What more could we ask for?

As we begin 2009 I know God will do even greater and more exciting things in our midst.  Bring it on Lord.  Bring it on!

Financial Peace in the Midst of Storms

We live in stormy times. There’s a 700 billion dollar bail out because of all the mortgage failures, Lehman Brothers Investments goes under; gas prices up $4 a gallon then drop back to $2 just as quickly. Stormy times. God wants to bring peace to the storms in our lives.  God wants us to have peace in the midst of the storms.

In Mark 4:35-41 the disciples launch out at Jesus’ request.  While on the journey He told them to go on they encounter a fierce storm.  The boat looks like it’s in danger of breaking up or at least filling up with waves.  What’s Jesus doing?

 v38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

Sleeping?!  The disciples cried out, “Don’t you care?”  Sometimes when we go through trials it seems like Jesus is asleep.  We call out but seemingly get no response.  When Jesus finally woke and calmed the storm He has a stern rebuke for His followers. 

v40 Then He asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 

We must respond in faith knowing that God is still in the boat with us and not be swayed by the economic news we hear.  Fear is not from God (2 Tim 1:7) and God’s Kingdom is not subject to the world’s economy.  God is recession proof!

So in these troubled times do what the Bible says, put the kingdom first (Matt 6:33), especially don’t compromise on tithing, and be a good steward of the remaining 90%.

For example: This Black Friday was predicted to be low because of the poor economy yet spending was up 18.7% over last year! [AP News] Where’d that $ come from? Well, maybe the economy isn’t as bad as they say but most likely it was people buying on credit.

Stay out of debt this Christmas (Proverbs 22:7).  When the bills come due in January you’ll be glad you did.  Financial Peace lasts alot longer than any present.