Monday, August 31, 2015

Remember Whose You Are

I believe that each of us has multiples "selves." We have a self that we would LIKE to be. We have a self that we DON'T want to be. And we have a self that we ARE - probably a combination of the two extremes. Let me show you what I mean.

Have you ever done something you were ashamed of? Have you ever committed a crime? Have you ever stolen anything, gotten drunk, had sex outside of marriage, ate too much or spent too much time lying around on the couch? All these things are not resume boosters. All these things are the things we'd like to keep quite. We would like to keep them our private little secrets.

We have good aspirations most of the time. We all think animal cruelty is a bad thing. When we get married we think that marriages should last forever. We all would like to think of our lives as being happy, fulfilling and satisfying. Most of us would think that we should feed the hungry, heal the sick and provide clothing for the naked and housing for the homeless. The reality is that we all live lives somewhere in between. That is because WE, sadly, are more important to ourselves than the needs of OTHERS.

Have you ever heard of the on-line "match-making" service called Ashley Madison? If you don't, you can get an idea of what they are all about by their motto,  "Life is short. Have an affair." Basically they are a cyber-pimp for your sinful desires.

Recently some hackers got into the Ashley Madison database and did the unthinkable . . . at least in the eyes of Ashley Madison's clients. They released all of their names to the public. According to a recent article in Christianity Today, there are 400 pastors, elders, and church staff members on that list that probably resigned yesterday.

What would happen to us if all of the sins in OUR closets suddenly saw the light of day? What if we were called out publicly for all the wrong things we have done? It wouldn't be pretty. Marriages might come to an end, jobs lost, family relationships terminated. Are you carrying such a burden with you today?

I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing like having such a burden lifted from your shoulders. To be forgiven of our sins is a HUGE weight-lifting moment. I pray that you all have had that life-altering experience. Have you? I hope so.

If you have not asked Jesus into your life, please do so today and experience what a life-changing, burden-lifting request that can be. We are not saved by being baptized as a baby. We are not saved by trying to be as good as we can be. We ALL live lives we are not proud of. None of us has attained that "dream life" we all thought we wanted. But we CAN live a life devoted to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Come to Him today. Repent of your sins, pledge your life to our righteous King and feel the weight removed from your shoulders, from your heart, and from your soul.

"19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price." - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." - 1 Corinthians 10:13

Forgiveness - TobyMac & Lecrae

My Pastor Is On The Ashley Madison List - Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today

Saturday, August 29, 2015

He's Waiting For You

We never seem to know when it is that God will surprise us. Just when we think we have Him just about figured out, He does something totally unexpected. Like this week. This week I thought I heard God talking to me. That surprised me. He didn't sound ANYTHING like Charlton Heston either. More like an 80-year old woman. Let me explain.

My friend and I had just finished praying at work and I had decided to go for a walk, reading the Bible as I went down the path behind our office. I was all jacked up from my prayers because I had laid my frustrations with myself at God's feet. I was sick of my procrastination in a few areas - letters I should write but wasn't getting around to . . . a building project I was having trouble getting off the ground. I, quite often, am my own worst enemy with these things.

As I began to read, I looked up and noticed someone walking towards me far away in the distance. That's when I did something I had never done before. I began praying for them while also praying that God might provide an opportunity for me to talk with them.

The text I was reading that morning was from 1 Samuel, about how Samuel's sons didn't really do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. "That's me," I thought to myself. I didn't really want to be that person, but I was. I am.

The person walking towards me was closer now. I could tell it was an older woman. Older than even I am! She was walking her dog. I had seen her on the trail before with some of her lady friends and their dogs. I kept praying.

We met at a place when the trail crosses a busy road. We both were waiting to cross. Finally an opening appeared and I ran across. When I got to the other side, the lady, her name was Judy as I was soon to discover, said something that got my attention. She delivered a message from God. At least it seemed to me that it came from Him. She said . . .

"I think He's waiting for YOU."

Those were the first words out of her mouth. I thought to myself, "What? He's waiting for me? Oh, now I get it. And God is waiting for me alright. Waiting for me to get off my butt and start being Jesus to the people of this world! "Those words really penetrated. This lady's words were like an answer to prayer. Like they came right from God!

"I think he was waiting for you," the lady repeated. "My dog. He was waiting for you."


The lady and her dog turned and walked with me for a bit. I shared my testimony with her that morning and she shared hers. I eventually turned around and headed back to the office. She kept on walking . . . somewhere. And as soon as I turned around I looked up to heaven and praised God for giving me an opportunity to speak about Him to someone.

That morning God encouraged me to get going in my witnessing and also in my efforts to help others. I feel rejuvenated with a new sense of purpose. I had been praying about how I had been compromising my ideas and procrastinating in my dreams and goals.

"Time to get to work," I said as I walked into the office. More about what happened next in a future installment of this blog. But let me just tell you this. There is nothing quite like serving the Lord. The rewards are "out of this world!"

"22 And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to listen than the fat of rams.”
- 1 Samuel 15:22

What Are You Waiting For? - Nickleback

This is the gospel: The Gospel

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Do You Compromise?

Do you think compromise is a good thing or a bad thing? It sounds like it would be good. The negotiator in an argument, for example, might think compromise is a GOOD thing. He might desire compromise above all else. It's his ultimate goal. A negotiator's highest priority is to arrive at a peaceful solution. Everybody compromises. Everybody wins, right? Yay!

What about a parachute manufacturer? Should he compromise when selecting the materials with which he makes his parachutes? What's the thinnest para chord he could get away with? Do we really need the highest quality nylon? Couldn't we compromise and make do with something a little more . . . inferior? Hmm. Maybe compromise is not good in ALL of life's situations.

What about our faith? Have we compromise in our beliefs? Do we compromise in how often we pray or read the Bible? Do we compromise in our church attendance or in our offerings? There are many places to compromise.

Here's a tougher question. Do you compromise in your relationships? Here's a relationship scenario for you. One friend texts you and wants to hang out but you don't give them an answer right away, hoping one of your "better" friends will want to hang out as well. Haven't you just compromised one relationship in hopes of enhancing another?

Do you compromise with God? Read this verse from the Gospel of Mark.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." - Mark 12:30-31

Do you find much wiggle room in the word "all?" Jesus just told us that we are to love God with everything we have. Do you think Jesus wants us to compromise? I think not.

So what do we do? We all tend to procrastinate and compromise in our commitments to others, even God, depending on our own selfish needs.

Here's another scenario. You've just gone to bed after a long tiring day at work. Suddenly the phone rings. It's a friend who needs help. What do you do? Do you compromise? Do you try to pass your friend off to someone else? "Have you tried calling Steve? He lives closer."

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

The word "all" leaves little room for doubt in what God wants us to do in the situation I just mentioned. The appropriate answer in God's eyes is, "I'll be right there."

We are servants . . . slaves . . . to the most-high God. We don't get to compromise or procrastinate or say 'no." We are the ones who say, "Here I am Lord. Send me." 

"8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go," - Isaiah 6:8-9

Let us be the kind of Christians who move. Let us be the ones who take action, who take the risks for our King. There is no compromise in us!

Here I Am Lord - John Michael Talbot

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rejoice! In Rotten Cucumbers?

I'm trying to think of something good to say about the walk I took yesterday on the Ice Age Trail. Usually I enjoy such outings but yesterday was completely forgettable as far as I am concerned. Why? Let me explain.

First of all it was misting and windy and the temperature was only in the upper 50's. Considering we are in mid-August, traditionally the hottest time of year where we live, it was a little chilly.

Secondly I was walking on one of the "connector links" which is usually just asphalt roads connecting one segment of the trail with another. I don't like walking on roads. My feet get too hot. One good thing about it being cool-ish today I guess. Then . . . I began . . . to smell something.

This smell was unlike any smell I have ever had the displeasure to inhale. I cupped my hand over my mouth and nose. I can STILL smell it. What was it? I heard a tractor. Maybe somebody was fertilizing their crops. Maybe they were spraying pesticide. And then I saw it. A tractor pulling a manure spreader. Only he wasn't spreading manure. He was spreading rotten cucumbers and the wind was blowing the smell of them right at me. Nasty and disgusting. Yuck!

At church yesterday morning the pastor was speaking on the Book of Hebrews. No, there was nothing about rotten cucumbers in the text but there WAS some good information that I should have remembered while walking through that putrid smell. Perseverance.

Hebrews 10, verse 32 - "Remember those earlier days . . . when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering" . . . and smells. That verse reminded me that I need to endure ALL things in my quest to follow Christ.

Why did I walk a quarter of a mile past rotting cucumbers? Well, it was to complete a goal. It was to complete walking a section of the Ice Age Trail. No one said the entire trail was going to be beautiful . . . or SMELL beautiful. The trail is simply there for those who wish to walk on it. The same is true for us as we walk through this world. Not everyone like the journey. Some bail out before the end. But those who endure until the end . . .

"36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls."

There are times when we go through struggles. Everybody has those. What keeps us going though is our faith. Faith in God and His promises are amazingly strong things to hold onto while we are walking through difficult times. Trust in the Lord, always. No matter how dark things get hold tightly to that which we know to be true. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. Cling tightly to ALL of His promises.

I Stand Amazed - Chris Tomlin

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The End of The Age?

I was watching a television show a few weeks ago - Day of Discovery. The topic of the show was Old Testament festivals. Sounds exciting, right? Well, it was VERY exciting!! But the show stopped before it got to the good stuff. Please join me in a little research . . . a little Biblical background if you will.

Please open your Bibles to the Book of Leviticus. That's the book where God laid down all the Old Testament rules about sacrifices, offerings and marriages. God also extablished all of the Jewish festivals in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 23. Can you find all seven feasts of The Lord? Here they are, in order. Which is very, VERY important.
  1. The Lord's Passover (v. 5)
  2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread (v.6)
  3. The Feast of Firstfruits (v. 10)
  4. The Feast of Weeks (aka Pentecost) (v. 16)
  5. The Feast of Trumpets (v. 24)
  6. The Day of Atonement (v. 27)
  7. The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (v. 34)
There they are. The seven Jewish festivals or feasts. Seems simple enough. God set up these special days where God would be honored and worshiped. But why these specific days? And what do they mean? Why would God designate these VERY specific days? Look how precise the dates are.

"In the first month on the 14th day, at twilight" . . . "then, on 15th day of the month." Hmm.

Two festivals? One right after the other? You'd think God would have spaced them out a little bit. Unless . . . . unless God had a really good reason for them to take place so closely.

And here's something else we can observe. See that line under Festival #4 above? What does that mean? The first four festivals are spring festivals. The last three are fall festivals . . . harvest festivals. Keep THAT word in minnd as we continue forward.

What I am about to show you is really amazing. But God is amazing so why should any of this surprise us? Something very special has happened on each of the first four festivals. I will list the feasts again along with a very significant event in Christian history.
  1. The Lord's Passover - Jesus was crucified and died
  2. The Feast of Unleavened Bread - Jesus was buried
  3. The Feast of Firstfruits - Jesus rose from the dead
  4. The Feast of Weeks (aka Pentecost) - The Holy Spirit was given
  5. The Feast of Trumpets -
  6. The Day of Atonement -
  7. The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles -
Isn't that amazing? Each of those first four events happened on a Jewish holiday. Hmm. That's weird. Or is it? And what about the last three events? What will happen on those days?

The last three events have not happened yet. They are in the future. But I can tell you this. I think the next major Biblical event will happen on the Feast of Trumpets. And when IS the Festival of Trumpets this year? Sunday, September 13th.

What is the Festival of Trumpets anyway? Can we get a clue about what will happen by the trumpets? What significance do trumpets hold in the Bible . . . the New Testament Bible?

There are five Books where the word "trumpet" is used in the ESV New Testament - twice in Matthew, once each on 1st Corinthians, 1st Thessalonians, Hebrews and 15 times in the Book of Revelation.

Matthew 6:2 is about not boasting (incidental for this discussion)
Matthew 24:31 is about the rapture of the church
1 Corinthians 15:52 is about the rapture of the church
1 Thessalonians 4:16 is about the rapture of the church
Hebrews 12:19 is about The Kingdom of heaven
Revelation 1:10, 4:1, 8:2, 8:6, 8:7, 8:8, 8:10, 8:12, 8:, 13, 9:1, 9:13, 9:14, 10:7, 11:15 and 18:22 are all about the kingdom of heaven and the coming wrath of God.

Do you sense a pattern here? I sure do!

 The Feast of Trumpets commemorates the end of the summer growing season and the beginning of the harvest.

It seems very obvious to me that something HUGE will happen on the Feast of Trumpets. The only problem is WHICH feast of trumpets. That I do not know. It could be this year (I don't think so) . It could be in 2017. It's really whenever God chooses. None of us will know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). The important thing is, are we ready? Well . . . are you? Jesus WILL return one day. The time of growing the church will end and God will harvest his people.

The next festival - the Day of Atonement. Jesus died as an "atoning" sacrifice for our sins. Have you made Jesus Lord of YOUR life? Please, if you have not, when you hear the trumpet sound, it will be too late.

"13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words." - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

This is the Gospel

Sound of The Shofar

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Aww Poop!!

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems like nothing is going right? My wife had one yesterday. Her computer didn't work. The person who could fix it wasn't there. Her "friend" at work had booked too many people for appointments and people were getting frustrated, including my wife. Sometimes we get to the breaking point, we get frustrated. And why? Well, usually it's our own fault. We don't prepare.

Here's a sad picture for you. Actually, it could be good or it could be bad. All depends (no pun intended) when you noticed the empty toilet paper rolls in the dispenser - BEFORE or AFTER you sat down. It is always good to be prepared . . . and observant.

Stuff like this happens to me more than I'd like to admit. I fill up my car's gas tank and go inside to pay, only to discover I left my wallet at home. Or getting in line at the toll booth to cross the Mackinac Bridge before discovering you don't have enough money to pay the $4 toll.

I was in the Boy Scouts. I am supposed to "be prepared." It's their motto!! Yet I fail at these simple life lessons almost daily. Why? Honestly? I think it's because I am distracted by all other the other stuff I have going on in my life. I don't have time to think. I don't have time to prepare.

Have you ever read the story of Noah and the ark? You probably do so I'll just hit the high points.

"13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark." - Genesis 6:13-14

If I was Noah I probably would have said, "Seriously? Right now? I don't have time for this!" But Noah obeyed God and began preparing for the flood. There were no clouds in the sky. There was no sign of rain. Everyone was having fun and partying in town. Nobody was ready for what was about to happen. They were about to get stranded on the toilet without any T.P.

Here's a little verse that can serve you well if you obey it:

"22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him." - Genesis 6:22

And so it was that Noah was prepared when the flood came. I wonder if Noah took toilet paper on board with him? Or what ever they used back then. Hmm. Unanswerable question I guess but somehow I think he was prepared.

So how do we prepare ourselves for situation like running out of essential things? That's easy. Prepare ahead of time. And just how are we going to be ready for life's tricky little situations? Read your Bible!

"28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—  29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,  30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?  31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?" - Luke 14:28-31

This life we are given is not always easy. It's not supposed to be. Life is full of challenges and situations to test and try us. God designed it that way for a reason. So we will learn and grow in our faith and in our character. We are not supposed to just go through life assuming things will just fall into our laps. We are here to learn!

Remember to prepare yourself for the day. Not only THIS day but also for the day that Jesus returns. On that day we do NOT want to be left staring at two empty toilet paper rolls when the poop hits the fan. It will be too late then. We must prepare ourselves now. Your reading assignment for today . . .

Matthew 24:3-14

This is The Gospel . . .

"By this gospel you are saved...that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time..." - 1 Corinthians 15:2-6

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Love of Family

Early morning sunrise. Eyes still closed. Slowly waking but not really wanting to. The thoughts my mind entertains at this time of day are mostly prayerful. Yet often thoughts go places not traveled in the daylight hours. I give my mind free reign and the memories, hopes and dreams begin to take shape, hazy to be sure, yet real enough to feel and touch.

This weekend my family gathered in Michigan for our annual family reunion. "Family" is an amazing thing. Lives intertwined and memories shared. Some of those memories are sad but most are good and lasting.

We made a Saturday morning stop at the cemetery to visit some of our family members. Our daughter placed some flowers on the graves of her grandfather, my dad, and her great grandparents. A large part of family belongs to memories shared.

My family has all sorts of people in it, just like yours does. Some good, some bad. Some veterans who fought in wars, nurses, farmers, businessmen and women, but, most-notably, mothers and fathers, children and their children's children - all lying side by side.

We tend to condense a person's entire life into single sentences. "He was a good man." or "She was a good mother." Somehow that seems inadequate to me. Yet, how well do we know some of these people? Even the living ones, unless we take the time to get to know them better.

I was struck by one of the grave markers. It bore my name - Robert Hall. The birth date and the date of death were the same. A baby whose life span was measured in hours rather than years, if he even lived THAT long.

One of my cousins is named Mark. He's had a hard life. He brought his horse to my uncle's farm so all the kids could take rides. Although Mark is younger than me he looks older in many ways. He walks with a limp, sports a deep, dark tan - not purposeful, but from long hours spent working his farm.

We sat and talked for a few treasured moments. He had tears in his eyes - from some hidden burden I fear. Where had all the years gone? Later, after leading his horse around the yard, limping as he went, with happy young girls riding in the saddle, we talked again. My heart went out to this man, my cousin, my childhood playmate, scarred now, both physically and emotionally.

As I put my arm around his shoulder to say good bye, I told him that I loved him. He replied in kind saying, "I love you too." Words too often left unsaid in many families these days.

After our family reunion each of us returned to our own homes, our own lives. But we take with us the rekindled memories of years gone by and cherished, long overdue conversations with people we have known our entire lives, yet never really KNOWN at all.

I am reading through the Old Testament these days and I am continually reminded of the Biblical concept of family. All families are filled with good people and bad, happy moments and sad. But the one prevailing theme throughout all of the stories we read in the Bible - "doing what is right in the eyes of The Lord" - is a recurring message.

Families need to love one another, care for one another and must always be willing to forgive one another. Too many times YEARS can be lost to a family over simple misunderstandings, sinful lusts, and prideful stubbornness.

I am reminded of a verse that a friend of mine uses in her testimony. It's from the Book of James.

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people!" - James 4:1-4

We ARE an adulterous people alright - too often lovers of self. The real joy in life, however,  comes from loving others and, more importantly, loving God. We all have scars,we all have some kind of pain in our lives, but we also have family. Unless my biology class failed me, every one of us has a father and a mother. So let us rejoice today in our families. May we bury the hatchet - not in someone's back but in someone's arms.

Life is too short to waste any of it in bitter disagreements, unfriending family members or with idle gossip. Let us love as Christ loved us. He gave Himself up for us. Have we in turn sacrificed ourselves in the name of Christ, for someone WE love? Please, do so today. You won't regret it.

Family - Toby Mac

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Every Single One

If you are like me you enjoy hearing stories of people doing godly work in the world in which we live. The news media usually seems to report only the bad stuff - car bombs, tornadoes, floods, famine . . . . politics. If a "feel good" story does manage to find its way to the nightly news it usually runs last. Kind of a "we've just fed you 28 minutes of depressing news. This will cheer you up." Why can't we ever have a news broadcast filled with nothing but wonderful stories about people doing wonderful things?

I think part of the reason is what I'll call the Soap Opera Syndrome, or S.O.S. for short (that acronym ought to tell you something right there). We love to hear about bad stuff happening to others because it makes our pitiful lives feel better by comparison.

There are plenty of good people out there. It's just that we never hear about them. Why is that? Well, it's because they are good people and don't want any recognition for it.

Yes, calling someone "good" is not accurate. NO one is good according to Jesus (Luke 18:19, Mark 10:18). So, let's just say that some are better than others.

I have a friend named Kelly. She has a big house and a big family. Yet, despite her family's size, she has an extra room in her house. She calls it "God's Room." It lies empty until someone comes into her life who needs a room. God is working through my friend Kelly.She inspires me. And, you know what? I see Jesus . . . in her. Her faith is alive. She is doing good things in the name of Christ for those in need.

There is another person in my life who is following Jesus' lead. His name is John. He spends most of his time gathering food for a local food pantry called Ruby's Pantry. He loves doing this! He has gathered a network of volunteers and donors that feed 200 needy families each month. Amazing! Do you have someone like that in your life?

We who follow Jesus are called to be holy - set apart. We are called "set apart" because we are different than the rest of the world. This difference is nothing that WE have done. It is God, working through us, to accomplish something in His name. It is God's Holy Spirit, living in us, that guides our actions.

I just heard a missionary speak last weekend. His mission field is in Turkey where the Christian population accounts for 0.006% of the population. Yet, despite that small percentage, people are coming to Christ. The church that God began through this one man is baptizing one person each month into the family of God.

These people inspire me. They encourage me simply by their actions and willingness to serve others. They inspire me because of their faith. They inspire me to serve more and to love more than I do.

"7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." - Hebrews 13:7

Where will you find Jesus serving today? Who will you see who represents His name in their actions? Keep your eyes open.

Here's a tougher question. Where are you? Where am I? Where are WE serving? Where are we being Jesus in the life of someone in need? I once heard someone say, "Pick up a newspaper. There's an entire to-do list in your hand. Where would Jesus be working today?"

Remember the words Jesus spoke when He was calling His disciples? He said, "Follow me." Am I following? Or am I going my OWN way? Hmm. Good question.

Every Single One - Geoff Moore

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Does God Really Hear My Prayer?

One thing that always bothered me about believing in God was, "How does God hear ALL of our prayers?" I mean, there are millions of us praying each day, right? Sometimes multiple prayers per day! How could all those prayers possibly be heard, let alone answered? The answer is simple. Two words.

He's God.

That a rather simplistic answer but it IS the CORRECT answer and I would like to offer you an explanation for how God hears ALL prayers. The whole problem with our believing that God cannot possibly hear ALL of our prayers comes when we try to comprehend exactly who God is . . . in HUMAN terms. Big mistake.

God is WAY beyond anything we can imagine. He is not fully understandable. He is bigger and better than anything we can come up with in our finite little minds. His thoughts are deeper, His love is greater, His wisdom far surpasses the brightest minds of our time, or ANY time for that matter. Any attempt to describe God, like this one I am typing now, is futile. He is bigger, higher, deeper, farther than ANYTHING ever imagined or ever will be!

I saw an illustration recently used by someone trying to describe God and time. When I saw it, it made perfect sense. It perfectly depicted how we try to categorize God and place Him in a box so we can begin to handle Him in our lives. God is more than just stories in the Bible. He is WAY bigger than that!!

How do we think about time? How could God possibly have time to hear all of our prayers? Well, we know that there is stuff that has happened to us in the past. We know that things are going to happen to us in the future. Simplifying - there is a past and a future. Time, to us, is linear. It's basically a straight line. If you would draw a line from Adam to our anticipated future it would look like this.
That dot in the middle is us when we pray. It is also everyone else who prays at the same time WE do. So where is God when we are in that dot? He's everywhere! And "everywhere" is more than linear. God is also up, down and all around! During our prayer time God is also answering everyone else's prayers at the same time. He has all the time he needs because time means nothing to Him.

Seeing as we are limited in this medium to two dimensions, this is only a two dimensional illustration but it really functions in three dimensions

I know all this is confusing but let me give you one more illustration that will demonstrate once and for all how God not only hears our prayers but answers them as well.

If you take the illustration I just showed you . . . remove all the arrow heads and text, and zoom in a little bit, I can show you one more piece of evidence that God hears and answers prayer.

Do you see what I see? It's the answer to ALL of our prayers! God answered our prayers 2000 years ago on the cross. The blood of Jesus Christ in the cross is the answer to all of our prayers when we plead with God to save us from the coming wrath.

DO you see the little dot still there on the cross? That's where we SHOULD be - hanging on the cross for our sins. Yet God, in His mercy and grace answered our prayers before we even prayed them. By substituting His one and only son for us.

The next time you pray, remember that. Do we pray to God like we are the reason He sacrificed His Son? We should be crying tears of bitter anguish knowing that God gave up something so precious! But that's the beauty of God's plan.

The sacrifice of Jesus paid for our sins. But then God raised Jesus from the dead and restored Him to His rightful place on the throne. God has not lost anything! Except for the souls of those who refused to believe. Only those who have been called to repentance will be saved. AN answer to prayer. :)

"11 God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." - 1 John 5:11-14

Bruce Almighty - Answering Prayers

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Commands of Jesus: Don't Be a Hypocrite!

Nobody's likes a hypocrite - somebody who pretends to be one thing but really believes something else. I see examples of hypocrites everyday on Facebook. It's sad.

The number of hypocrites in our country is incredible! I even say one in the mirror this morning. They're everywhere!

Jesus often criticized the Pharisees and religious leaders of this day and quite often referred to them as hypocrites. God does not like the notion of hypocrisy because it breaks a few of the ten commandments, most notably of which is "Do not bear false witness." Do not lie.

I think if each of us examines ourselves we don't have to dig too deep to find the hypocrite inside. Recently there was a news story about some dentist killing a lion while on safari in Africa. People were really upset. Yet we, as a people kill millions of babies each year and think nothing of it. We object to the taking of life yet tolerate the taking of life at the same time. Hypocritical? I think so.

How about the Christian who professes a faith in Christ yet does not bear the fruit of the spirit. Hypocritical? Mmm. I don't know. I think I would refer to them as . . . unsaved.

I sin every day. I think things I shouldn't. I don't do things that I should. I am just as big of a hypocrite as anyone else. So what must I do to be saved?

Some would argue that my professed faith in Christ is enough. But then I read the Book of James and I am told that "faith without works is dead." Is my faith dead if I deny my faith by continuing to live in the lifestyle I have become accustomed to?

We who believe are called to"be holy as I am holy." But we fail at that. We try to be holy but we trip up and we fall down. We humans tend to lead hypocritical lives and we can't seem to stop. So what hope do we have is Jesus doesn't like hypocrites and He is the one who will judge us for what we have done. We HAVE not hope . . . apart from Christ.

Our only hope is Jesus who told us to repent of out sins. That is the only thing we can do. Repent. We must get down on our knees . . . daily . . . hourly . . . and ask God's forgiveness. We need His grace and mercy or we are done.

The scripture for today's message has several commands in it. We are not to boastfully pray for all to see. We are not advertise our religious practices in a boastful or bragging way - kind of a "Look what I did!" and therefore I am better than you. No. We are to be humble, doing unto others without thought of recognition or praise. We are set apart. We are not like this world, right? Then why do we so often act like it?

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." - Matthew 6:5-8

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Do You Like Payday?

Who doesn't like payday, right? All of a sudden, a couple days a month become extra special days because someone gives us money. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars! And it's not so much the amount of money we get. It's just the plain and simple fact that SOMEONE IS GIVING US MONEY!!

Do you love money? I think most people do. Do you enjoy the feel of money in your pocket? Do you play with coins like they're poker chips? Do you arrange your paper money so it all faces the same direction, fold it nicely and put it into your wallet, purse or pocket?

The Bible tells us that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Money itself is not bad. However, it is the LOVE of money that is.

I just read a story of two young friends of mine who thought it was somehow okay to steal some things, sell them and use the money to buy things they wanted. In their case, the love of money got them into trouble. LOTS of trouble.

Have you ever been given something that's NOT money? I'm not talking about the socks you got for Christmas. I am talking about something beyond the concept of money or necessary usefulness like those socks. I'm thinking about something that's actually worth MORE than money itself. Something that's . . . priceless?

A pastor friend of mine recently baptized several people in Lake Michigan. Pictures of the baptisms were posted on Facebook. One of the comments read, "Payday!" That is SO true. Our salvation is something priceless that we receive from God, a gift, when we place our faith in Him.

The other day I was on Facebook. I usually cruise through the news feed looking for friends who might need help or prayer. A message popped up from a young friend of mine who wanted to talk. Last night we met and shared stories from our lives. At the end of our time together we prayed together. On my way home I smiled and thought . . . payday! I was just given a blessing from God. :)

I absolutely LOVE helping others. Money means little these days, just a means to an end. But helping someone in need, helping someone who is hurting or in need of prayer, comes with a much larger reward than cash.

If we truly love God and are obedient to Him and His will, God WILL reward us. Not with money but with opportunities to share God's love with others. The "reward" we seek should NOT be monetary but in seeing God honored . . . seeing HIM get the glory and not ourselves. In so doing, we WILL get paid alright. Through His many blessings. Have a happy and prosperous payday . . . all in the name of Jesus!

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." - Hebrews 11:6

Money - Pink Floyd 
Child Poverty - Compassion International

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Key To True Happiness

"Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul." - Deuteronomy 30:9-10

What makes you happy? Go ahead. Make a list. I'll wait. I'm serious! Make a list of the things that make you happy. While you're going to your "happy place" I'll get you in the mood for some real happiness by showing you this little paragraph from an article I just read entitled "What Really Makes A Person Happy."

"Friday, March 20, marks the third-annual International Day of Happiness. The day came about after a 2011 UN General Assembly, where the importance of happiness was discussed as not just a priority for global health, but also as a “fundamental human goal,” from which all things — even economic growth — can benefit. With this realization about the importance of happiness in mind, the first UN Conference of Happiness was held in 2012 and it was decided that starting in 2013, every March 20 to follow would be celebrated as International Day of Happiness." - Amanda Chatel,

You know, I've just decided hat there are two types of people in this world. One kind thinks that what they just read is absolutely wonderful. The other kind, the group I belong to, thinks, "That was the biggest crock of you-know-what I have ever read and it is a perfect example of what is wrong with this world." Anyway, enough of that. Let's get happy!

So what DOES make you happy? I'm going to guess what's on that list of yours and I bet I nail a few of them . . . all with just one word. Love.

I think most of us are at our happiest when we are loved. Is there anything on your list of things that make you happy that do NOT involve love of one kind or another? We love . . . love. We sing songs about it, write stories about it, we emblazon it on our coffee mugs and out tee shirts. Yet, despite all this "love" in our lives we still can be a broken and crumpled mess at times. Why is that? I think it's because we haven't committed to truly love ourselves. And we truly haven't committed our hearts to Jesus.

Since I gave my life to Christ I have experienced more love than I have ever known. And it is a deeper love . . . and unconditional love . . . a sacrificial love. It is an amazing love. The only problem with this kind of love is that many people don't know it even exists. They think they already know what love is. There is something greater . . . something purer . . . something deeper.

So how do you find this kind of love? WHERE do we find it?

Before I give you my sales pitch about Jesus I want to tell you something I have found to be true. I surrendered my life to Jesus 9 1/2 years ago. I am no expert theologian. I just read the Bible and believe what it says. But I testify this day to a greater love than anything you have ever known.

Since I made that commitment to Christ, the love I feel for others has grown deeper. That love has changed in natural as well. It is no longer a needy desire to be loved. It has changed. The love I feel for others is now sacrificial in nature. It is unconditional. And THAT is where true love lives.

If you want to feel loved like you've never been loved before, seek out Jesus. Seek out a true believer and begin a conversation. The name "Christian" has be high jacked in my opinion and no longer holds it's biblical meaning.

I urge you to call out to God. Ask Him to love you and to prove to you that He exists. If you do so with a sincere heart you had better hold on because the life you lived before will change. You will be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).

There is nothing any human can say or do to convince another human to do something. This has got to be something you WANT to do. All I am doing here today is asking you to consider it. Jesus changed MY life. Jesus can do the same for you. And you will experience love like you have never known.

"11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

You Are My King / Amazing Love - Chris Tomlin

Monday, August 3, 2015

Queen Anne's Lace

One of the reasons I enjoy taking long walks out in God's creation so much is that I get to see and appreciate the many things He has made. Birds, animals, trees, rivers, lakes, clouds, the list is endless. There are SO many things that God has made for us to enjoy!

But God doesn't stop there. He provides for us in many other ways too, beyond the things we see around us each day. Some of God's provisions we cannot see at all. The air that we breathe, the smells and aromas. Even things that haven't been discovered yet are out there, each with an incredible story to tell about God and His incredible provision.

Today I would like to talk with you about a common plant. You can find it growing in fields and along roadsides. Most people would call it a common weed but I call it a miracle - an incredible,  miraculous provision from God. Queen Anne's lace.

Queen Anne's lace also goes by other names. Wild carrot is one. The root of this miracle plant is edible. It's closely related to the carrot. As a matter of fact, if you planted carrots in your garden this year, try this interesting demonstration. Leave a carrot in your garden over the winter. Guess what will come up in the spring? That's right! Queen Anne's lace!

There many other things this amazing plant is used for. Here's a list:

Queen Anne's lace is an analgesic, anti-arthritic, anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, anti-schizophrenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-flu, antihistamine and antioxidant. It also appears that is may be useful in helping to treat Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease, digestive issues, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, cancer and diabetes. Wow!

God put all those things into this one plant! All we had to do was discover it's uses. But as amazing as all that is, there is STILL one more thing this plant does. Some may disagree but I this Queen Anne's lace proves creation over evolution.

Look at a close-up of it's big, white flower. What do you see?

Yup. A purple flower within the flower itself. The entire flower is white. Why this one single purple flower in the midst of the rest. What is the evolutionary purpose of the purple pedals? There is none. It is easier for me to believe this was created for a reason. And just staring at it now, I think I figured it out.

"After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.

Jasper and Carnelian (symbolic of blood)
 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.

Go back up and look at the purple flower surrounded by all the white ones. Jesus on His throne in heaven? If people want to think this flower evolved from some ocean somewhere, that's up to them. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

One more verse before I close . . .

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.
- Revelation 4:11

The Marvels of Queen Anne's Lace

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Blue Moon

Last night I stood outside our house in the dark to take a picture of a rather rare phenomenon - a blue moon. Blue moons don't happen all that often - every two or three years. And the name is kind of deceiving. The moon doesn't really turn blue. So why is it called a "blue" moon?

The word "blue" in this case actually results from a morphing of an old word - belewe, which means "to betray." So a more correct term for what occurred last night would be "a betrayer moon."

There are blue moons, blood moons, harvest moons, full moons, half moons, new moons . . . there's a whole lot of "moons!" But regardless of what you call it, a moon cannot make ANY light by itself. Any object, other than a source of light, merely reflects light. That includes us. Light is the reason we see things. It is the entire reason we can see anything at all. Without light there would be no blue moon or any other kind of moon, There would only be darkness.

"12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12

Are you a follower of Jesus? What exactly does that mean? Re-read the verse you just read. Focus on the text in bold. Meditate on it's meaning. JESUS, is the light of the world! And if we are to be considered followers of Christ, reflections of who He is, shouldn't we resemble Jesus? Shouldn't we reflect God's light into the ever-darkening world around us? I think the answer is "yes."

If we just walk through this world without effecting our surroundings for good, what good are we? We are just objects in the darkness. But if we turn our face towards the light, if we walk IN that light, won't the light of Christ be evident to all those around us?

I have seen people in this world, who claim to be Christians, that do not reflect any light what so ever. They are absorbers of light, not reflectors. To use another astronomical term, they are black holes. In our walk with Jesus we do NOT want to be black holes. We want to be moons - reflecting the love of God wherever we go.

Are you a light in this world? Do you reflect God's love into the lives of the people around you? Or do you consume light, letting the spotlight shine on yourself for your own glory?

"5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness." - 1 Thessalonians 5:5

We are "children of the light." We are children of The Most High God. We are the ones who are to spread the light of Christ to those around us. Let God's light reflect off you today. Become a "moon" rather than a dark void in space. Go out and "moon" somebody! It's a Biblical command from God! :)

You Are The Sun - Sara Groves