Monday, November 30, 2015

Simple Pleasures

Do you have those simple little things in your life that make you smile? You know what I'm talking about. Those little things. They're everywhere if you look for them. Last night in our house, for example, my wife announced she was making wienie roll-ups for dinner. I LOVE wienie roll-ups!!! That's a simple pleasure.

The other day when I wasn't feeling so good, my phone lit up. It was a text from a friend, wondering how I was doing. Just that simple little gesture made me feel a lot better. Why is that?

Deep down inside each of us there is a desire to be loved. A new-born baby cries in the middle of the night. It might be hungry of it might simply want to be held by a warm, comforting mother. I think it's part of our nature . . . the desire to be loved.

What are some of the things that make YOU happy? Being with family and friends? Sleeping in in the morning when you're all comfy and warm? Perhaps it's that first cup of coffee in the morning, the wagging of a dog's tail or the purr of a kitten. It could be the embrace of a spouse or a close friend or simply sitting down in a comfortable chair at the end of a long day. All these things can bring comfort, a certain sense of relaxation and safety. The sense that everything is right with the world.

One of the simple pleasures I have come to enjoy since placing my faith in Christ is that of praying with friends. There is nothing that says "I care" better than taking someone to the foot of the cross and praying for them, WITH them. I don't do this for my own gratification but rather for God's glorification. And what better way to tell someone I love them than to introduce them to MY best friend, Jesus.

"28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:28-31

It is a simple pleasure, and honor, to come before the Lord in prayer, particularly when we bring someone with us.

A friend of mine once asked me to pray for them. I agreed to do that . . . right then and there. We stood in the middle of a post-worship crowd of people, in church, and we prayed. Prayer should be our first thought, not our last resort.

Life contains many simple pleasures. The question is, "Who is at the root of those pleasures?" I find pleasure in wienie roll-ups, but where is the source of that pleasure? My wife? Pillsbury? If I eat too many of them the source of pleasure might be Satan. But if I told you my wife made them out of love because she knows I like them. Who would be the source of pleasure then? It's God! Because God IS love.

Where do our pleasures lie? In "the flesh?" Or in "the Spirit?" It makes all the difference in the world . . . and beyond.

Please, Please Me - The Beatles

Finding Your Pleasure In God's Pleasure - Desiring God

Saturday, November 28, 2015

When Life Leaves You Alone

The company I work for is amazing. While my wife tells me stories of her work environment and its "strictly business" policies, the company I work for is more like family to me. People end up working there for long periods of time. At this year's Christmas party we will celebrate work anniversaries of 35, 40 and even 45 years!

One of the cool things our particulate department does is it allows retired workers to come in and spend time in the office, after they no longer work for the company. That's really cool. When you've worked some place for a long time your work mates become more like family members than anything else. You miss them when they are gone.

Recently, one of our retirees came back in to the office. I usually see him in the mornings. He checks his e-mail and does some personal Internet research. He also recently lost his long-time wife to cancer. He is really struggling right now because . . . he is alone.

He has a photograph album, filled with pictures of he and his wife. He misses her greatly. Too much I fear. In one of our conversations he has even mentioned things like, "what's the point in going on?" He has attended grief counseling sessions, has listened to caring relatives and friends. Nothing seems to heal his broken heart. It is really sad to see.

So what do we do when we lose someone who is near and dear to us? A spouse, a friend, a relative? How do we cope with such a loss? And how do we find meaning in life after a devastating loss? The only answer I can come up with is . . . Jesus.

I have tried talking to my friend about Jesus - His ability to heal broke hearts, His offer to help us carry our burdens, His offer of peace and rest and His incredible love for us . . . but my friend is still not sure. He says he is on a "different path."

For a Christ follower it can be very difficult when people refuse to hear the Gospel or ignore it all together. We ourselves know Jesus is exactly what they need but we cannot force someone to believe. Free will. And so we pray, we love, we encourage and we support them as much as we can. And most importantly, we must never give up in that effort.

My friend's name is Bob. I invite you to pray for him and others like him who have gone through a major loss. We are to be Christ to all people but especially to the widow and the orphan - people groups who have all suffered loss.

Do you have someone in your life who has suffered a major loss? I think we all know someone like that. This is a tough time of year for them. Family celebrations and get togethers. It can be a sad time for someone who has no one to get together with. My friend Bob actually left town for Thanksgiving because he did want to be with family. "Too many memories," he said.

Loneliness can be a devastating condition in which to live. That's why I recommend taking steps to prevent it.
  • Fight it. Instead of isolating one's self from others, embrace every opportunity to interact with others. Talk with someone. Go to a church.
  • Embrace it. When attending family events that might contain too many memories, EMBRACE the opportunity and share those memories with one another.
  • Use It. There are others who are missing people in this world. Knowing their pain and having compassion for others can liberate you from the very pain that ensnares you.
  • Lose it.  Loneliness can lead to self-destructive behavior. Get rid of it by refusing to visit dark thoughts.
  • Change it. Someone has promised to never leave you or forsake you. His name is Jesus. Seek Him. Talk to Him.
No one should feel alone in a world containing so many people. Reach out to someone. With just a little effort it is possible to escape the emptiness. You are worth far more than you think you might be. Join in a conversation with someone. Take someone to church. Invite someone out for a meal. You may find that in making an effort you could change someone's life . . . forever.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” - John 14:18-21

Only The Lonely - Roy Orbison
Only The Lonely - The Motels

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

I thought I would issue a "special edition" blog post this morning, just because it's Thanksgiving and I am feeling especially thankful today. And so should YOU be. :)

When one thinks of Thanksgiving thoughts usually turn to turkey, stuffing, football and pumpkin pie. Those are traditional Thanksgiving things in our lives. What is NOT so traditional, especially in today's world, is giving thanks to the one who provided them all . . except for football. Sorry Packers fans.

Now I know what you're thinking. "We pray on Thanksgiving and every other day." Believe me, that is good. However I am talking to the occasional prayers, the ones like I used to be. I tended to offer up prayers on Thanksgiving. I was willing to participate in a Thanksgiving prayer. And that is a good thing . . . if it is truthfully a proper prayer.

Too often, I think, we focus on the things in our lives that we are thankful for without really thinking about what we are praying. I think that many of us, just like I did, do not pray properly.

Instead of thanking God for good health, for example, what if we extended that prayer . . . and make it about God, not ourselves.

"Heavenly Father, today I thank you for my health, the ability to breathe the YOU gave us. I thank you for it because you have given me strength to do your will in this world. You chose to give me life, so that I might have life to the fullest through your Son, Jesus Christ. I thank you for me good health so that I may serve you and others with this body for as long as I might live."

A prayer of Thanksgiving should ALWAYS be about God, not about ourselves.

Here's a brief little story by one of my favorite pastors. It points to how we often think of things on a personal, human level, instead of focusing on the eternal, heavenly center where all things began.

Ask The Question Properly -Voddie Baucham

Father, You deserve ALL thanks and praise for all you do. Though we are sinners, fully deserving of your wrath, you extend us grace, mercy and compassion. These gifts alone are worthy of your thanks. But you gifts us many other things beyond just 'life.' You give us family and friends to love . . . with the very love you gave us. You give us the gift of eternal life through simple faith in your Son. You feed us, cloth us and provide for us in this life through the gifts and talents you placed in us before we were born . . . in the inmost place you formed us. For all these things, Lord, we thank you and praise your mighty name, above all other names. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Let us give Him thanks and praise for all HE has done. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Are You Comfortable?

I was talking to a member of a local church a few months ago and in that conversation this church member told me, "I love this church. I feel so comfortable here." And that is what I want to talk about today. Comfort.

My wife and I attend different churches. We used to belong to the same church but when I noticed the church's teaching straying from the truth, I chose to leave. My wife chose to stay. The reason my wife stayed at her church was because she was comfortable there. She will be the first to tell you that she doesn't like change and finding another church we could both worship at was, sadly, too much change for her. But enough about that.

Are we as Christians supposed to be comfortable in our faith? I think Christians living in Syria, or ANY Muslim country, are anything but comfortable these days. It's hard to feel comfortable when you are a target.

I look at Paul, "an ambassador in chains" (Ephesians 6:20), and I think about all of the letters he wrote while in prison for his faith. He certainly was not comfortable.

It is my opinion that "comfort" and Christian" are two words that do not play well with one another. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum it seems to me. Comfort is where faith goes to die.

Let me ask you a few questions.

1. Are you comfortable in YOUR faith? By that I mean, has church become routine for you? Has it become the same each week? Do you sit in the same seat? Has church become something you just "do" rather that something you look forward to. Do you look forward to the routine and sameness of your worship? Is that right?

2. Are you comfortable in your relationships? This is a trickier question. Do we always do the same things in our marriages? You we go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed . . .  same routine, day in and day out? Is that living? Is that practicing love in our marriage relationship?

Too often we can take our relationships for granted, sometimes to the point of losing them. We need to nurture our relationships, invest in them. All earthly relationships are finite. They have an end. We should invest in our relationship with Christ. It is the only relationship that lives forever. We shouldn't get comfortable in our relationship with Jesus. His mercies are new every morning. We should live in our relationships with all people as if that were true for them as well. Love each other with a "new" love - the love of Christ.

Don't Get Comfortable - Brandon Heath

Monday, November 23, 2015

Do Not Be Afraid

I watched the news like everyone else did. The stories coming at us through the television screen hurt deeply. There was disbelief. I could almost hear the cry of the atheists, "How could a loving God allow this to happen?"

The evil that exists in our world is very real, very frightening and is seemingly everywhere. So how do we make it through each day? How do we manage to stay sane when the world around us seems to be going crazy? Let's explore that, my friends, with a few Bible verses. First is this . . .

"4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God." - 2 Corinthians 4:4

Satan controls this world and the people who do not know God. Remember that, ALWAYS, as you watch the news. Satan is doing this stuff! And now, one more chunk of scripture to absorb into our minds and into our hearts. A prayer offered by Jehoshaphat as they were about to be attacked by three armies all at once. The people of Jerusalem gathered together at the temple and Jehoshaphat prayed this prayer.

"5 Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the Lord. 6 He prayed, “O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7 O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’

10 “And now see what the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir are doing. You would not let our ancestors invade those nations when Israel left Egypt, so they went around them and did not destroy them. 11 Now see how they reward us! For they have come to throw us out of your land, which you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” - 2 Chronicles 20:5-12

That certainly sounds like a prayer that we might offer up to God these days. Did you catch the line in verse five that said "the community of Judah and Jerusalem?" The entire nation of Israel came and prayed! When was the last time we as a nation did something like that? 9/11? This is how God responded as He spoke through one of the men standing there - Jahaziel.

"15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” - 2 Chronicles 20:15-17

The nation prayed, God answered, and then God delivered.

"24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped." - 2 Chronicles 20:24

The solution to the world's problems can be found in this story. It can be found throughout the Bible!

14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." - John 14:1-6

The lesson brought forth in this story is one that needs to be remembered and preached to the world today. When people talk about ISIS and they talk about terrorism, explain to them the ways of the Lord. Tell them about the safety and shelter they will find in the arms of Christ. That knowledge, that saving faith, is something this world desperately needs to know.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Commands of Jesus: Go And Do Likewise

There has been a lot of discussion in the news and on the Internet about whether or not we should allow Syrian refugees into our country. Our president would like to allow thousands of Syrians into our country . . . this year. On the conservative side of things, many feel there should be some screening and background checks before anyone comes walking into our land.

This later thought has gained some traction in recent days when it was discovered that one of the attackers in Paris was himself one of the Syrian refugees. That raises the question, how do we know if someone is an extremist before we let them in? Logical question, but impossible to answer.

Did you know that Jesus was a refugee? He was. There was tremendous violence in his home country. Herod was seeking to kill Jesus so Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt. I wonder . . . What was THEIR policy on immigration?

"Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON." - Matthew 2:13-15

If we search a bit more in the Bible we can find EXACTLY what we should be doing as a country for these people who are fleeing their home country with only what they can carry. The story of The Good Samaritan.

"25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.  34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’  36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.” - Luke 10:25-37

What is interesting is that modern day Samaria is Palestine, more specifically the West Bank. The Good Samaritan, in modern terms, could very well be a Muslim. The victim on the side of the road in the story was from Jerusalem, most likely a Jew. Their nationalities and the role they each played in Jesus' story is amazing enough but the lengths to which the Samaritan went to help someone is the main story.

Based on this parable of Jesus, what should we as a nation do for these people fleeing for their lives?
  1. We should have compassion on them (v 33).
  2. We should go to them now, not take the time to bring them to our own land (v 34).
  3. We should take care of them, bandage their wounds, emotionally as well as physically (v 34).
  4. We should transport them in our vehicles, planes, etc. (v 34).
  5. We should feed them, giving them what is needed, both physically and spiritually (v 34).
  6. We should take them to a place of safety. Where is the nearest "inn?" (v 34).
  7. We (the nations of the world) should pay for their expenses, whatever the cost (v 35).
Do I believe we should bring these refugees into our own country? No. Why not? Which of you, if faced with a similar situation in this country and taken to some foreign land, would not want to return home one day? Syria is their home. We, as people of the world, should take care of our neighbors . . . right where they are. But it is unsafe in Syria! Then we are to take them to a nearby safe place and care for them there. This is the command of Jesus, our King. The question for us is . . why aren't we obeying?

Refugee - Tom Petty

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

From A Distance

President John F. Kennedy gave a speech back in 1962 declaring that we as a nation would land a man on the moon before the turn of the decade. And we did. But before we actually landed there were several preparatory missions. Apollo 8 was the fist manned spacecraft to go to the moon and return.

We Choose To Go To The Moon - President John F. Kennedy

I will never forget that first picture they sent back. It was a picture of the earth . . . from the moon. Things on earth sure looked peaceful from that far away. Look at how beautiful the earth looks! It's incredibly peaceful. Compared to the moon in this picture it is definitely more inviting, warm and friendly . . . from a distance.

When this picture was taken there was civil unrest in our nation. We were involved in a very costly was in Vietnam, we were discovering drugs. It was a very dynamic, exciting, yet tragic time on planet earth.

Do you believe that God is watching us? I do. I believe God watches us like a teacher watches his or her class. I think God asks questions as He watches. "What do my children need to learn? Obedience, trust, faithfulness, love . . .then these are the lessons I will teach them.

God watches us from a distance but He does so by examining our hearts. We are not on this earth to see who can spend the most money or buy the most toys. We are here to learn and grow, to be transformed into the image of His son. May each of us live as if God were watching us . . . because He is.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." - Psalm 32:8

From A Distance - Bett Midler

Monday, November 16, 2015

Is It Enough?

I know what everyone is trying to say. I know what everyone is trying to do. And on the surface showing solidarity with France during the crisis they are undergoing is good. But let's be honest, what good do the blue, white and red profile pictures really do?

Well, it IS a simple, easy way to show France how much we care about what happened to its people. It's kind of cool seeing everyone's profile picture "united" for a single cause. That is a good thing. But changing our profile pictures is also precisely the problem. It is a problem because it is both simple . . . and it is easy. We should be prepared and compelled to do more as Christians in honor of the 127 souls who perished in Paris.

Here's a testing question for us: This past April, 147 students in Kenya were killed by Al-Shabab. Where were the Facebook profile pictures with Kenyan flags back then? USA Today article.

And what about France's response to the terrorism on their, vowing "merciless" retaliation. And now they have officially declared was. It THAT right? From what I read in the Bible, it is not, as God told us.

"It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." - Deuteronomy 32:35

So what should our response as Christians be when we encounter atrocities like those in Paris and Kenya. It IS right to speak out against such actions. It IS acceptable to change profile pictures to show we care, but let us do it EVERY time . . . for every people group who suffer. Let us do it for Kenya, let us do it for the earthquake victims in Nepal and Afghanistan where over 9,000 perished this year. The 224 people aboard the Russian airliner who died at the hands of an ISIS bomb. And let us do it for the 96,000 babies murdered in the world so far this year?

Don't get me wrong, I support a strong defense through offense. These people are fighting against God! But I also believe that we must seek God's direction and permission before we attack. Maybe that was done in France's case . . . but I doubt it.

Our response to ALL these things we see, seemingly each day on the news, is to respond with LOVE. Are we not called to LOVE our enemies? Yes, we are. We are not called to retaliate in kind, unmercifully. We are called to love - first, our God, and then, others. ALL others.

Now ISIS is one unlovable group. Earthquakes are one thing but terrorist attacks are another thing all together. We should defend ourselves and prepare diligently for such attacks but the thing we must remember, above all else, is that ISIS is fighting a religious war. Is France" The real question we need to be answering is "How are OUR religious defenses?" How are our religious beliefs?

They say that the best defense is a good offense. How are we doing at spreading the Gospel? Jesus is our warrior. He carries a two-edged sword. Let us support OUR king as ISIS fights for theirs. Our weapon is devotion, obedience and love. Are you in God's army?

"11 Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. 12 His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. 15 From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. 16 On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords." - Revelation 19:11-16

Operation Overlord - D-Day  - Normandy Beach

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Heart Of Gold

A couple days ago a high school classmate of mine posted a Neil Young video on Facebook. I watched it. Wow. 1971. The year I graduated from high school! That was a LONG time ago my friends.

The Vietnam War was still going on, there were protests in the streets of most American cities, there was civil unrest . . . hmmm. What goes around, comes around I guess. The same thing can be said of our nation today. Have we really progressed as a nation since this video was recorded, some 40+ years ago? Not really.

The only thing that seems to be different is the way we treated soldiers returning from war. Now we cheer them and honor them for their service, we make videos of their homecomings and put them on YouTube to show each other how much we care. A far cry from when we used to spit on them and dishonor them with our mouths. Do that today and you would be arrested for hate speech. Why the change?

I think it's largely because the people of my generation have grown up. Wee were the spitters and dishonorers. We were the "peace" generation of hippies, free love and drugs. And now, in this present day and age, we feel guilty for what we have done. In short, we have repented of our sins.

What will this next generation be sorry for when they are my age?

If I had to make a guess it would be a sense of direction and purpose. Basically, I see a generation wandering in the desert. Sound familiar? A generation falling away from God and we, the generation that went before them, are simply watching them walk away without saying much of anything. Wouldn't want to offend anyone.

This nation, this world, is doomed unless it repents of its ways and we return to being a God-honoring people. Otherwise it will certainly die spiritually. And should we require a "cause of death" to be written on our death certificate it will ready simply, "SELF."

In the chorus of the Neil Young song I mentioned we can get a clue about our nature as humans.
"Keep me searching for a heart of gold.
You keep me searching and I'm growing old.
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
I've been a miner for a heart of gold."

If we look at out spiritual lives, who is the "You" in line two? It's God. We keep searching and we never find our "heart of gold" because we are looking for answers that satisfy ourselves. Those answers never satisfy and so we keep searching . . . and I'm growing old doing so.

There is a solution to our fruitless search. There is a way we can be satisfied in our longing for a heart of gold. The illusive treasure is found in Jesus. He has the ability to refine our hearts, to cease our endless wandering, looking for that one thing that one He can provide. And here's the thing. Once we find Him, we will never "grow old." Not if we are in Christ Jesus.

"3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts." - Proverbs 17:3

"3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." - 1 Peter 1:3-9

Heart Of Gold - Neil Young

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Killing Shamu

When I got home from work Monday night my wife wasn't standing in the kitchen to greet me like she normally does. Instead, she was standing in front of our television in the living room. "They're having a story about Shamu!" she yelled. My wife loves animals.

"Oh . . . neat," I replied, heavy on the sarcasm.

As the news story ran we found out that Sea World is terminating their main act- a killer whale show and it's star, Shamu. There have been protests against the show, the environment the whales are kept in and the breeding of these same whales in captivity. You can read the story here . . . AFTER you're done reading this story, of course. :P

As my mind began to drift away from Shamu, I started thinking about the industry of circuses and zoos - capturing wild animals and training them for our own entertainment. If we simplify it, and take a look at this subject from a more generalized viewpoint, what do we see? One species captures another species for its own entertainment and viewing pleasure. That same species even breeds its captors to perpetuate that enjoyment cycle. Is that right? Is that what God would have us do?

Let's examine the zoo keepers (that's us). We are all about entertaining ourselves. We take our kids to the zoo to see wild animals behind bars, we spend hours in front of a television screen or on the computer doing what? Entertaining ourselves. Movies, sports, music, telephones, you name it. We love to be entertained, distracted from the mundane things in life. We enjoy anything that keeps us from thinking about our dull, meaningless lives because, quite frankly, we are so easily distracted. Sigh.

Contemplate this thought, if you will. Zoom out even further and look at the world in which we live. Ask yourself, "Who is really the captor? Who is the one to be pitied? Who is held captive in this planetary zoo"

We are.

Think about it. Aren't we really captors of sin? Isn't Satan really the zoo keeper in this eternal scenario? For whose entertainment are we being held captive then? God's? No. Satan's! If Satan is the zoo keeper, what is God's role in this all-to-real zoo example? Let's open our Bibles and find out.

"16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” - Luke 4:16-21

Jesus is the one who opens up the gates and lets us out of our cages!

I'm not suggesting that all Christians show go to the zoo and let all of the animals free. What I am suggesting is that we examine our motives as we walk through this world. Are they selfish, for our own enjoyment and pleasure? Or are they for Gods glory?

Personally, I think we should close ALL of the zoos and take the animals back where we got them from. Let them do what God intended for them to do. And may we do the same. May we live OUR lives as God intended for US to live them. In worship for . . . and in love of . . . our King. The one who set us free from OUR bondage. All you Shamu's out there . . . .      rejoice!!!

The following is a video of Shamu. I encourage you to watch it, placing yourself in the role of Shamu while the people in the stands represent Satan and his demons being entertained by us. WHat do you think?

Shamu - Sea World

Monday, November 9, 2015

I'm A Firm Believer

I am a firm believer in God. I'm not sure I understand why. I don't totally understand Him. There are many unanswered questions I have. But I have never been more sure He exists than I do today . . . or than I will tomorrow. I can't prove He exists just like scientists can't prove evolution or the big bang . . . theory. It's all just that. Theory.

The only way I could prove that God exists would be to rip open my chest and let others see a torn and broken heart, made well somehow. People would have to had to have known me both "before" AND "after" in order to see a difference. And still many would only see subtle outward changes, not the frustratingly obsessive thoughts I have about God on the inside. I know what I know . . . but no one else can ever fully know what has happened to me. Unless, of course, it has happened to you.

I am a firm believer that I myself can do nothing to convince people that God is real. I am also a firm believer that Jesus existed, He rose from the dead and He ascended into heaven. I can't prove it. I read it in the Bible. And how do we know that the Bible is true? There are just about as many opinions on the validity of scripture as there are people! So How do I know the Bible is true? At least I can tell you this much. One little passage proves all of these things to me. Want to know what it is? I wouldn't have brought you this far NOT to tell you!

Please, open your Bibles and read it for yourself. You can find it in the Book of John, the 14th chapter, beginning with verse 15.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." - John 14, 15-17

That's it. Pretty simple. I have the Holy Spirit living in me. I KNOW that. And because those few verses have proven true to me, I believe anything and everything Jesus that tells me. Why? Because He cannot lie. That would be a sin. But here's the really sad thing.

I am also a firm believer that if you have not repented of your sins, sought forgiveness in Jesus name, and surrendered your life to Him, you're going to hell. I'm sorry, but that's what HE told me. And He cannot lie.

Now here's the frustrating part. There are so many people in my life that I wish were saved but are not. I cannot do a single thing about that fact other than plead with God to save them and tell them how amazing He is and how much He loves them. And here's another frustrating thing. God has His own plan. He is working it just fine without me and the people I would like to see saved. Don't get me wrong. He DOES hear me when I cry out but like Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father unless the Father draws Him." And how does He do that? How does He draw people to Himself? The Holy Spirit, the one who is living in all of us who believe.

We pray for all who do not believe. We pray for our enemies. We pray for those who persecute us, torture us and kill us. Why? Because we were commanded to by our God.

If you have not been saved. If you have not repented of your sins, offered your heart and soul to God in the name of Jesus, who rose from the dead, PLEASE do so today. It is not MY will. It is God's. He wishes that none should perish . . . none of those He has called. He wishes that ALL people come to a saving faith in Him. But He also knows that not everyone will. And that is sad. Truly sad.

God loves you so much!! Please, consider Him today. He will change your life, as He changed mine. Don't wait another day.

Jesus Loves Me - Willa Dorsey

[This story was written to an specific individual but it could have been written to anyone. Anyone in need of a savior.]

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Commands of Jesus: No Lay Ups!

The command we will be investigating today is one that really hit home early in my walk with Jesus. You see, I was unknowingly living contrary to this command until someone confronted me with what I was doing and the Holy Spirit finished the work in me as I became convicted, repented, and made things right with the Lord.

For me, my treasure was a '99 Corvette. I set aside money to buy it, placing its worth above that of my family members. If you knew me back then you probably saw me driving it to church or to my Bible study. I was a new Christian and it was at that study that someone said, "A Christian driving a Corvette? Interesting." That hit deep. Then, when I read the following verse, my perspective on this life shifted. And I began to change.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21

I was an obvious example of someone "laying up treasure on earth" through the purchase and idolization of that Corvette. Do you have any such idols in YOUR life? As we look at our lives, what if we dig deeper, examing ourselves and our walk with Christ. Let me ask you as few questions.

Is your job "a treasure?" Or maybe the better question is, "Do you treasure the things you buy with the money from your job? In short, what is YOUR Corvette?

How about digging a little deeper? Are you in a relationship with someone? Are you living with someone? Is your relationship God-honoring or has it become your treasure by placing more value on IT than on God's Word and His commands?

Let's dig deeper still. Deeper? How deep are we going here, Bob? Well, let's see . . .

Is your religion a treasure? Do you store it up, thinking you are saved and going to heaven because you have led a good enough life and because you go to church, you pray and you were baptized when you were a baby? Jesus did not like "religion" like that.

The final question . . .

Are YOU your own treasure? Have you placed yourself and your personal desires above God and His? Is it more important to you to do what YOU want than what GOD wants? Do you spend more time on Facebook than you do with God? Do you spend time searching for things to do because you're bored? Or do you spend your spare time helping a friend go through a break-up or pray with a friend who just lost his job?

We need to consider others before we give thought to ourselves. We are to be servants, not masters. To store up treasures in heaven that is where our hearts need to be . . . all the time.

"33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” - Mark 9:33-37

My Delight Is In You - His Life City Church

Worst Lay Up video

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What's On You Doorpost?

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a little strange. There are people who would argue otherwise. Not that I am NOT a little strange, rather that I am REALLY strange. I tend to come up with a different view of things than most people. Like this for example . . .

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18, "20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” - Matthew 18:20. If Jesus is with us in church or around the dining room table, why don't we take our shoes off when we are praying or in worship? Moses was told to take off His sandals when He was in the presence of The Lord (Exodus 3:5). Shouldn't there be lines of shoes on the floor outside our sanctuaries?

Here's another thought. When God told His people TWICE (Deuteronomy 6 & 11)

"6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." - Deuteronomy 6:6-9

How come we don't have God's Word written on our doorposts? Maybe that's figurative speech but I'm not so sure. Lambs blood was painted on the doorposts at Passover. Jesus was the lamb that was slain. Jesus is The Word. Perhaps the doorposts we are to place Jesus on are the door posts of our hearts.

Have you given your life to Christ? You most likely will answer 'yes' to that question but have you REALLY done that? If God the most important thing in your life? Have you allowed Jesus to take over control of your decisions? Your bank account? Your schedule? Your life?

Try going through a day totally devoted to living a life like Jesus lived. Can you do it? I would encourage you to try it. Just for one day. Pour into someone's life like Jesus did for the woman at the well. Question your church leaders when you see His Father's house turning into a house of merchandise. Love others who are hurting by telling them of the hope you have found in Christ.

There are so many things we can do for our God and King. Let us be about HIS business today. In HIS name. For HIS glory. May people look at us and know WHOSE we are as we praise Him with our lives.

I Surrender - Hillsong

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lay It Aside

There is an invisible force at work in the universe. I have experienced it. Perhaps you have too. This is not a story about the fictional "Force" that is mentioned in Star Wars. Nor is this a story about the god Eywa in the movie Avatar. No. I'm talking about something very real. God's Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit leads us and guides us and it draws us to God. The words of Jesus . . .

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." - John 6:44

How does God "draw us"? The following is from

The Greek word translated “draw” is helkuo, which means “to drag” (literally or figuratively). Clearly, this drawing is a one-sided affair. God does the drawing to salvation; we who are drawn have a passive role in the process. There is no doubt that we respond to His drawing us, but the drawing itself is all on His part.

But how does God draw us? Do we suddenly just fall into a trance and float to Him? What does the whole process look like? This could be an example. What do YOU think?

Friday night I received a message on Facebook from a kid I hadn't seen in two years. It simply said, "I have a question." That led to a brief Facebook conversation and a meeting was arranged. In that meeting we talked about life, struggles, and . . . most importantly . . . God.

Do you believe that God would take the time to arrange earthly meetings, then send His Holy Spirit to help orchestrate them? I do. I've seen it happen too many times for it not to be true. We might lose a job and think, "Well, this sucks." when in reality God wants you somewhere else to pour into someone's life for His ultimate glory. And that's the key in all of this. It's for God's ultimate glory, not ours.

My young friend came seeking help. She was led. She also happened to bring two friends with her that day. Was this God-arranged meeting for their benefit as well? I have no idea but I do know this.

When we feel led to do something, and it lines up with God's will, I believe we should do it, no matter how crazy it might seem. God led me in such a way. If you are a believer in Christ I'm sure God has led you too. We must always be willing to be led and we must always be willing to serve.

If you don't have a relationship with Jesus, ask God to arrange one. I'm quite confident He will. :)

"12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1-3

Bless The Broken Road - Rascal Flatts

This message was inspired by Pastor Dave's message on 11/1/15 at Calvary Chapel - Waupaca