Monday, September 18, 2017

The Power of Love

We never know when it will happen. We could be walking down the street or down a crowded corridor at school. It could happen at work, at home, or at the mall. It happened to me this past Saturday, right in the middle of a parking lot.

What am I talking about? The opportunity to love someone - "not as the world loves, but as Christ first loved us."

Look at the couple in this picture. They are actually total strangers, yet they found themselves in a loving embrace. Why? The guy was heading to the checkout line with the store's last generator. They were selling fast ahead of Hurricane Irma.

The woman in the picture began to cry because her father needs oxygen to survive. If the power went out in the hurricane the oxygen would stop and her father would very likely die. The man in the picture, seeing the woman crying, gave her his generator. Wow!

Saturday I was at Ruby's Pantry, a local food distribution for those in need. My job is per-registering people outside while they wait in line. This gives me the opportunity to interact with people and ask them how they are doing in life. I always do that. But I wasn't prepared for the answer I received on Saturday. Or was I?

One lady responded to my "How are you?" question with a lukewarm response so I dug deeper. "Anything I can pray for?" I asked.

"Me. A few weeks ago I made a suicide attempt."

Okay. What do you say to that?

I asked a few more questions and then offered to pray with her. I placed my arm around her shoulder and pulled her in close. My prayer was all about the unconditional love of God, who sacrificed His Son so that we might have life. Eternal life. I tried to be as encouraging as I could and then, at the end I told her I loved her.

I know that's kind of a weird thing to say to a total stranger but I felt like I needed to tell her that.

Later on I saw her in her car, driving up to get her groceries from the loading dock. She stopped her car short and then got out. She came over and gave me a hug and thanked me for my prayer.

We never know when we will be presented with a God-orchestrated opportunity to speak into the lives of others about God's amazing unconditional love. "Generator Man" was an amazing example of what God's love looks like. He sacrificed his needs in favor of someone else's. May God bless him for his example and his love for a total stranger.

May each of us ALWAYS be ready to display the love of Christ to everyone we meet. In that way God will be honored and that is why you and I were created - to worship Him in everything we think, do and say.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35

(I just used that verse last week I think but it's an important thing to say, especially now in these last days)

Man Gives His Generator To A Stranger - CNN
The Power of Love -  Huey Lewis and The News
Father, Spirit, Jesus - Casting Crowns

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Parable of The Old Lawmower

Broken relationships. How do they happen? Someone we once thought would be in our life . . . forever . . . suddenly, they're gone. They leave us for some unknown reason - ripping a giant hole in our heart. Was it something we said? Was it something we did? Or, was it something we didn't do . . .

It may seem painfully obvious but unanswered questions like those are the most difficult questions to find answers to. That's why they are unanswered. If we only knew what caused a valued relationship to end we could at least deal with it. Or take steps to fix it.

I was mowing the lawn Thursday night. I gassed up "old reliable" - our lawn mower for the past 30 years - and began to cut the grass. Suddenly, something wasn't sounding quite right in our "relationship". Then BANG!! Something blew a hole in the side of the engine and our long term relationship was over. Just like that.

Why did it happen? Well, as I look back on things, it was probably my abusing it in some thick brush and stumps this past summer. Our "relationship" was never meant to be tested to that extreme. I had damaged my lawnmower to accomplish something I wanted. I didn't think about the health of my lawnmower, just like we often neglect our most treasured relationships.

Relationships with others are far more valuable in God's eyes than an old lawn mower.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:34-35

Red letters. That's Jesus talking my friends. Commanding us to love one another. He's not ASKING us. He is COMMANDING us! Yet the divorce rate among Christians is basically same as in secular marriages. Why? Because we love ourselves MORE than we love others.

Look at the second part of verse 34. "As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

How did Jesus "love" us? Well, He died for us. Do we have that kind of love for others? Would you die to save your spouse? Your child? Your friend? Would you die to save the life of someone who doesn't like you? Think about that. Re-read the words of Jesus again.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? Do you love everybody? EVERYBODY? The opposite political party? Your ex? Islamic extremists? Do you love them?

Try this:

Have you talked with Jesus about your relationships lately? Try it. Tell Him about them all - the good, the bad and the ugly relationships in your life. Ask Jesus to help you love, even the unlovable. Keep asking. He will grant you this request because it is HIS will that you do this. Ask!

Forgiveness - Matthew West
Ask, And You Will Receive - InfuzeLight

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Total Recall

I received a recall notice in the mail for my car this past week. Something about a malfunctioning steering system. Yeah. So I opted to schedule an appointment rather than wait for the steering wheel to become detached. Smart. :O

We don't have to be experts in discernment when someone sends us a postcard telling us we are in danger of dying. We usually don't want that to happen to us. Dying that is. We are thankful for the warning and the car company taking care of it for free.

Did you ever think about that? Why they repair your car for free? It's because the alternative - a wrongful death lawsuit - is probably more expensive than the fix. It's cheaper just to fix the thing and move on.

And what triggers the recall in the first place? How many people have to die before Detroit figures out, "Hey, there's something wrong with the steering system"? Probably one too many.

It's good having people who tell us when something is wrong. It can literally save our lives.

My wife and I like the commercial on television where there's a guy in the dentist chair. The "dental monitor" looks into his mouth and tells him something is terribly wrong. Then he and the dentil hygienist leave saying, "Oh, I'm not a dentist. I'm a dental monitor. I just tell you when you have a bad cavity."

The poor patient asks, "Where are you going?"

He desires to have his problem fixed but is then abandoned by the very person he believed could do that.

Jesus is far more than just a sin monitor. He can fix our sin problems simply by our placing our hope and trust in Him. And He has promised to NEVER leave us.

Look, we are all in danger of dying. It can happen at any moment. The question is, "Are we ready?" If this was your last day on earth, where would you be spending tomorrow? The choice is yours. Your destination location is up to you. Heaven or hell?

Most people wait to the last possible moment to consider Jesus. They're too busy. Too busy to make the most important decision of your life?

Hey, we ALL have a sin problem. Get that problem fixed today by placing your faith, trust and hope in Jesus. Do it before something in your life breaks and "free repairs" are no longer an option.

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." - Jeremiah 17:7

11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” - Romans 10:11-13

Dental Monitor Commercial - Lifelock
Come Thou Fount / Amazing Grace - David Crowder

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Unexpected

I was on my way to church Sunday morning when I came around a bend in the road and saw a rather unusual sight - a hot air balloon sitting there right beside the road. I slowed down, rolled down my window and asked, "Good morning! Need any help?"

"No, but thanks for stopping."

I supposed hot air balloons land in fields all the time. It's normal for them to do so. But it sure was unusual to see one that had landed right beside the road. I was NOT expecting that!

Later, after I had arrived at church, I was telling a friend about it and how we humans react seeing those unexpected things. What must it have been like when the disciples of Jesus were gathered in a locked room the night after Jesus was crucified?

"19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." - John 20:19-20

That must have been an incredibly unexpected moment. Can you imagine? Seeing your friend dead? Seeing him taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb? No one was really expecting to see him again. And then . . .

What would you say? What would you do?

All of us will see Jesus one day. For some of us it will be a joyous occasion. For others . . . Mmm, not so good. 

If you haven't done so yet, please, place your trust and hope in Jesus. We never know what is going to be around the next corner in life. Maybe it's an earthquake. Maybe it's a hurricane. Or two. Or three. Maybe it's a hot air balloon on a Sunday morning or an airplane flying into the World Trade Center. The question is, "Are we ready?"

People Get Ready - Eva Cassidy

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Extended Warranty

My friend's husband is a good man. He watches after his wife's car like a hawk watches for inattentive mice. He noticed a small oil leak a few days ago and told her to have it checked out. Good thing she did.

It may have been a small leak but it was a big fix requiring leaving her car in the shop for several days. She would have had a rather hefty bill to pay as well, if she had not purchased the "extended warranty". Smart girl.

You never know what's going to happen when you buy a used car. Things can seem wonderful at first but then something goes wrong and the result can be quite costly. Or even terminal.

Sometimes I think that I need an extended warranty for this old body of mine. No, I don't have any "fluid leaks". But some of the suspension is getting old, my sag rods are failing and my sway bars are not doing their job anymore. LOL!

Have you considered God and HIS "extended warranty plan"? All Christians get an extended warranty for free, you know. As soon as we believe. :)

"42Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies." - 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

I don't know about you but I'm looking forward to getting my new body. Maybe I will have muscles . . . and hair on my head! But all that doesn't matter really. What matters most is the length of God's extended warranty.

It lasts forever!

Life Is Good - Stellar Kart

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Riders On The Storm

Have you noticed all of the storms we've been having lately? Not only did Hurricane Harry do some incredible damage in Texas, but Hurricane Irma is bearing down on the Caribbean and Florida right now. It kind of makes you wonder . . . what's next?

There are more kinds of storms out there than just hurricanes though. There are political storms. We've been seeing those for over a year now. There is also a major storm brewing on the Korean peninsula as Kim Jong-un flexes his pudgy little nuclear muscles. And then there are all of the physical and emotional storms we face in life each and every day. Someone we know might be battling cancer or feeling alone late at night and life’s unknowns are keeping them awake. So many storms! TOO many.

Have you ever read Matthew 8? If you have storms in YOUR life you should commit it to memory. Watch what Jesus does to the storm He and His disciples were in.

“23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”

26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
- Matthew 8:23-27

Could it really be that simple? Could we simple ask God to save us and . . . He'd do it?

When I was in Mississippi several years back as part of a group restoring homes after Hurricane Katrina devastated that area, we saw a tree . . . the Angel Tree . . . where a man tied his family during the storm. They survived. You can read about it here:

Angel Tree

When we returned from the trip each of us stood up in front of the church to talk about our most memorable moment. Mine was that tree. I recited this scripture after I talked about the dad, hoping to keep his family safe. Where did HIS hope come from?

"I lift my eyes unto the hills,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth." - Psalm 121:1-2

If you are going through a storm in your life, please, forget your stupid pride and consider Christ. He has the power to calm the storms, no matter what they are. Trust in Him! Then watch the winds calm and the waves fade away. Our only hope is Jesus. Please, trust it Him today.

Riders On The Storm - The Doors
Praise You In This Storm - Casting Crowns

Monday, September 4, 2017

Laborless Day?

So, it's Labor Day. Big deal. I get a day off from my real job so I can "labor" harder than I would if I didn't have the day off. Of course, we all like to get a jump on the holiday and we usually work our butts off in the yard or around the house the days leading up to our "day off". So by the time we actually get to Labor Day we're already too tired to enjoy it.

There might be a parade we could go watch or we might celebrate "the last official day of summer" by taking the family camping or on a picnic to a park but most people will spend it working anyway - mowing the lawn, seal-coating the driveway, or canning tomato sauce.

It could be worse though. For some reason I have this picture in my mind of Charlton Heston stomping straw into the mud so the Hebrew slaves could make bricks. I bet they would LOVE to have a day off from THAT labor!

If you think about it though, Labor Day is a day to celebrate God and the gifts He has given us. God has given us each certain abilities or "gifts". He gave us these skills, not only to put food on our tables, but He gave us the things we are good at to honor Him.

This Labor Day take a look at your job and ask yourself this question. How does what I do honor God? Think about it. You can probably come up with a list of things to thank God for.

Placing food on the table is one thing. What about the roof over our heads? Or the car we drive to work each day? And the relationships we have at work.

So, on this day let us give God thanks and praise for all of HIS labors on our behalf. It is only right and fitting to do so. Otherwise we labor in vain.

"23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." - Colossians 3:23-24
The Ten Commandments: How To Make Bricks
Working For A Living - Huey Lewis and The News

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bad Dreams

Where do dreams come from? I'm not so much interested in where GOOD dreams come from, just the bad ones. I'd like to know where bad dreams come from so I could go there and shut the door!

I don't have many bad dreams anymore, since allowing Christ into my life, but they still happen. That must mean something.

Maybe it's just my already-ancient mind getting older still but I don't think so. I have a theory. See what you think.

I am currently reading through the Book of Jeremiah. Chapters 39-42 specifically. God had used the prophet Jeremiah to warn His people in earlier chapters about their disobedience. They refused to listen, so Israel was about to receive its punishment.

God instructed those who wanted to escape punishment to follow His instructions and turn themselves over to the enemy. They would live, He told them, in servitude for 70 years, but they would live. If they chose to stay and fight the enemy however, they would die by the sword.

There is a simple message in those chapters - obey the Lord and live, disobey and die. So, what does that have to do with dreams? There are good dreams and then there are bad ones. If dreams are birthed somewhere deep in our minds, what controls the content of those dreams?

I have heard that some Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus through dreams. What a joyous dream that must have been! Could our bad dreams be some kind of warning? Are we being totally disobedient to God in our lives and that is what warrants our bad dreams? Or maybe God is seeking us, like He did with the Muslims. Could He be seeking a closer relationship with us than the one we currently have with Him?

I woke up from my bad dream this morning thinking that I need to walk more closely with God. I need to follow His commands in my life, not what the world tells me to do. Following Jesus will not stop our sin, but it should. I think stopping the sin part is up to us. God gave us free will. Are we using that free will to follow God, or to follow "our dreams"?

There is only one answer that leads to life . . . that leads to GOOD dreams, not bad - and that is to trust in the Lord, with all our hearts & souls, all of our mind and strength. Only then will we have peace in the land that God promised. Only then will good dreams replace the bad.

"10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” - Jeremiah 29:10-14

Trust in the Lord. Follow Him in all of your ways. He had promised to give us peace. We must repent of our sins, placing our hope and trust in Jesus. Then, and only then, will the bad dreams lessen and the good dreams abound.

All I Have To Do Is Dream - The Everly Brothers
Dreams - Fleetwood Mac

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Parable of The Mini Van

When I was growing up my dad bought our family a minivan. It was a great vehicle. We took it on vacations, we hauled autumn's leaves to the dump with it (yes, they were inside the van). We beat the living tar out of that car and it kept on running and serving our family for many years. But I never thought a minivan would teach me a valuable life lesson.

After leaving home as a young man I always made jokes about minivans. I'd say stuff like, "I would never be caught dead in one of those things" or "the only time you'd ever see me in a minivan was if my casket was in the back." You know, encouraging things like that. A little prideful perhaps?

This past week I met with a young couple. They have a young daughter and another child on the way. They currently have no place to stay of their own. They have no vehicle and, until recently, they no jobs. Times were tough. But God is doing an amazing things in their lives.

A while ago the young mom, a former youth group kid, reach out to me. She was in need of some food. Then earlier this year there came another reaching out. This time for housing. And now this week came another need - transportation to get to those jobs. All these things, opportunities to serve, were directed towards me.

But who am I? Some might say "He's an easy target." My reply to that would be, "I'm more like a willing servant."

This morning in my prayers it occurred to me just what was taking place here. It's not about me and me swallowing my pride to buy a minivan. It's about Jesus. It's ALWAYS about Jesus. This is a freaking parable!!

All of humanity is represented by this young couple. We are ALL in need of a savior, so we reach out in desperation! We reach out in hopes that someone can save us.

In this parable of the minivan I suddenly find myself in a role that is WAY above my pay grade - playing the role of Christ in someone's life. No pressure, right? Oh, dear Lord! How incredibly humbling.

"Who am I Lord, that you should be mindful of me?" - Psalm 8:4

Purchasing a minivan for someone is a small, earthly gesture compared to what Jesus did for us on the cross.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." - Mark

Lord, you came to our rescue what you willingly died for us. You gave us everything we ever needed that day on the cross. May we shine brightly, reflecting the love You gave us, into the lives of ALL we meet. We reach out in desperation to you, Lord. We thank you and praise you for reaching YOUR hands . . . on the cross.

Mighty To Save - Hillsong

Monday, August 28, 2017

Supply Lines

Every day we get up out of bed and face a new day. Some people bounce right out of bed, excited for what lies ahead. Then there's me. I no longer "bounce". It's more of a "creak".

We all have to get up sooner of later and, when we do, what do we do? Many head right for the coffee pot. Gotta wake up, right? I head for the bathroom. Others turn on the computer (me) or the television. Many check their phones. What do you do?

 We all are connected to something. Something that gets us, and keeps us, going. Sometimes that connection is good. Sometimes we plug ourselves into something bad. What do we do if we become addicted to something sinful or evil? Well . . .

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." - Matthew 5:27-30

In our battle against the enemy - Satan - we must constantly examine ourselves and our defenses. Where are we prone to sin? Where are we straying off the path? All of us need help in this area.

Take a close look at the picture to the left. What can you discover about it? Well, it's a black and white photo so it was taken before the 1960's when color photography became popular. The soldier in the foreground (a German Nazi) tells me this was taken in World War II. And indeed, this is a picture of a German supply line heading for the Eastern Front.

One of the tactics our enemy Satan uses is to get us addicted to something so our focus is taken off God and placed on ourselves. We become obsessed with OUR desires rather than God's. My question this morning is, "What are our sinful supply lines?"

For some it might be alcohol. Others might get consumed by gambling, pornography or work. Maybe it's idolatry - like worshiping our phones. When that happens, when we lose our focus on God, we lose ourselves in the process.

So, what can we do about our sin? Our temptations? Our addictions? We need to do what the guy in the picture of this de-railed train did. Destroy the enemy supply lines. Cut off the supply of alcohol. Get some help through Christian addiction counseling like Alcoholics Anonymous. Don't drive by the liquor store on your way home from work. Get rid of it, cut it off, whatever it is that supplies you. Then fill that void in your life with Jesus.

Turn off your television. Don't go to that party. Turn off the computer. Quit staring at the woman at work with the big boobs. And those are just some of the obvious things we can do to break up the enemy's supply lines to our soul. And turn of that phone! Then, we can go on the offensive by augmenting our supply lines that come from God.

Read your Bible more, listen to messages from trusted pastor on YouTube. Christian music can uplift the soul, not through the melody but through the words. Remember what "Supply Chief" John the Baptist said,

30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth." - John 3:30-31

We must attack the enemy supply lines to our hearts. God lives there! Our heart is HIS temple. Close the doors to sin. Blow up the bridges the enemy uses to supply the war Satan is waging on you and on God. We must emerge victorious in our daily battle with Satan. He is very good at what he does. But God is better. WAY better.

I leave you today with these words of advice from 70's folk singer John Prine.

"Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own."

Amen! And pass the ammunition!

Spanish Pipedream - John Prine