Monday, October 31, 2016

The Cost of Our Faith

One of the reason I love my church is that our pastor tells it like it is. He doesn't sugar coat scripture. He gives us the precise meaning of the text and leaves the rest up to God's Holy Spirit.

There are some churches that alter scripture to make it appealing to their congregations. They change their theology to match the way of the world. (sarcasm alert) We wouldn't want to make anyone feel guilty. They might not come back.

There are also churches who feel they need to entertain to keep people's interest. They need to have the finest music and the right lighting. They tend to give topical sermons about things like counseling or divorce or, my personal favorite, giving.

What's wrong with God's Word just as it is? There are plenty of lessons in the Bible to provide years of teaching. Like today, Our pastor spent 60 minutes on six verses. Was it boring? No. Were we entertained? No. Were there video clips to drive the pastor's message home? No. We have the truth of God's Word and that is sifficient.

Yesterday's message for example was about the cost of our faith. Although we are currently going through the book of 1st Peter, the title of this blog's story came from Matthew. The words of Jesus.

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." - Matthew 10:34-38

Do we love Jesus more than anyone we know? Anyone? More than your boy friend or girl friend? More than our spouses? More than our own lives? I wonder. 

Here's another verse that could be used in conjunction with the verses you just read:

"21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:21

Is Jesus our treasure? Our our genie in a bottle?

So many of us want to keep living the lives we lived before we got saved. We want to keep our same friends. We want to do the same things. I have found myself drifting back at times.

Our faith will cost us. In some cases it will be loved family members because we have "changed." Which means, we don't like you anymore.

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"
- 2 Corinthians 6:14

These are hard sayings but they are in the Bible foe us to follow. Are you being picked on by your "friends" because you are a Christian? We need to love Jesus more than our friends. And if a friendship leads us into sin, we need to terminate that friendship. Jesus must come first.

Examine all that comes at us from social media, television, movies, newscasts. Is it worthy of God? No? Then why do we have it in our lives? Would we be better off without it? These are all questions each of us must answer for ourselves.

Personally, I am going to limit my Facebook use. I am going to limit my television consumption. And here's my challenge for myself. Beginning November 1 I am going to track my time. Facebook, TV and movies versus reading the Bible, praying and serving. I challenge you to do the same.

Jesus must come first. Or we will find ourselves running last in His eyes.

Churches Using Carnal Means To Attract Visitors - Paul Washer
The Growing Cost of Faith In America Today - Alliance Defending Freedom

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Resistance

The following video clip from the 1963 movie The Great Escape takes place in occupied France during World War II. The German army is the occupying force and they are enjoying the spoils of war at the expense of the French. There is, however, a small band of freedom fighters known as The French Underground or The Resistance that are fighting back. Their victories are small but they ARE fighting. They ARE resisting. Please watch.

Café Scene - The Great Escape

Do you think something like that could ever happen in this country? Most people would think that's impossible. We're far too civilized these days. And besides, our nation is too strong to be defeated by any army. Well, what if I told you that we are already being "occupied" and our enemy is getting stronger everyday. Need some evidence?

The State of Georgia is demanding that a pastor (Dr, Eric Walsh) turn over his sermon notes to them for investigation. According to the article, which you can read here, "the government was curious about sermons Dr. Walsh delivered on health, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science and creationism. He also preached on what the Bible says regarding homosexuality."

Bible-believing Christians are being persecuted in this country right now. The occupying force is our own government as well as the secular society in which we live. They are the ones removing the Ten Commandments from the courthouse square. They are removing prayer from our schools. They keep trying to remove the name of our God from our money, our schools, and even our sermons. Teachers are being fired because they mention just the "possibility" of creation rather than evolution.

It will get worse.

The time is coming, and has already come, that people will be imprisoned, tortured and killed because of their faith in Christ. It's only a matter of time before that level of persecution comes to THIS country. But it will come.

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been." - Revelation 6:9-11

Persecution of Christians will get worse in this country. Are we ready for it? Are we ready for a fight? Our battle is not with men but rather with darkness. Our weapons are not guns. We will fight with the Word of God and the love that is in our hearts. We WILL prevail. It has been foretold in God's Word. But are we ready for the coming battle?

I heard a new song by one of my favorite bands. Examine the lyrics as you listen to it.

I am a nation, I am a million faces
Formed together, made for elevation
I am a soldier, I won't surrender
Faith is like a fire that never burns to embers
(Who's gonna stand up, who's gonna fight?)
The voice of the unheard
(Who's gonna break these chains and lies?)
Love is the answer
I gotta speak it, believe it, that's how I feel inside
I, I, can't, can't sit here quiet

You can take my heart, you can take my breath
When you pry it from my cold, dead chest

This is how we rise up
Heavy as a hurricane, louder than a freight train
This is how we rise up
Heart is beating faster, feels like thunder
Magic, static, call me a fanatic
It's our world, they can never have it
This is how we rise up
It's our resistance, you can't resist us

Merciful Father, help us to remain strong amidst all the persecution that is to come. Embolden up to preach the Gospel, encourage us to stand and never back down. May we fight to the end; soldiers in your heavenly army. And may of weapon of choice be the same love you gave to us - mercy, compassion, grace. All honor, praise and glory to you, forever and ever. Amen.

The Resistance - Skillet

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

You're Putting Me On!

I have a friend who loves to go sky diving. He and his skydiving buddies like to ride up in an airplane until they are "two miles high" and then they jump out of the plane. Sounds like fun but it could be a little bit scary if they weren't wearing their parachutes.

Parachutes have the ability to save our lives but in order for that to happen we have to be wearing them. We have to actually put on the parachute before any actual "saving" can take place.

Do you remember the Biblical story of Noah and the ark? Or course you do. Do you remember why God told Noah to build the ark?

"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." - Genesis 6:5-8

God was so upset with the wickedness of man that He chose to kill us all . . . except for Noah that is. Noah and his family were given grace by God because Noah was obedient to God's command [That's an important thing to remember] and Noah was extended grace by God because of Noah's obedience. But before Noah and his family could be saved they had to . . . get in the ark. God gave them a means by which they could be saved.

Is any of this sound familiar yet? Here's a hint: Jesus is our ark!

As I look at the news headlines I cannot help but think that we are living in the times of Noah. There is evil all around us - ISIS, violence in our cities, we are killing each other and we are murdering our babies. Lawlessness seems to be reigning as we protest our police - the very people responsible for our safety. Our politicians are caught telling lies and they get away with it. Yet, despite our wickedness and our turning away from Him, God has given us a way to escape His coming wrath.  By placing our faith in His Son, Jesus.

My friends, we as a people, have exited the plane and Jesus, just like the ark and the parachute, is the only thing that can save us.

Have you got your Jesus on?

Parachute - Otto Knows
Noah Movie

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Servant's Heart

I was a little early to church yesterday morning. I'm not sure why I was so early but perhaps it was so I could witness a couple of things I wouldn't have seen otherwise. The first thing I saw was a police car parked the parking lot and the lady police officer was talking to another lady.

"Speeding to church?" I thought. No. The two ladies were sisters and they were just chatting. I love living in a small town. :) Then I noticed one of the elders on the playground equipment. No, he wasn't swinging or climbing on the monkey bars. He was wiping down the dew-covered slide for the kids to play on after the service. Two examples of people serving others and I hadn't even walked into church yet!

A servant's heart is evidence of God's Holy Spirit and a transformed life. These two people were serving other, not because they HAD to, but because the WANTED to.

Serving others becomes second nature after a while. A person gets used to doing things for other so often that service becomes a part of who that person is. Can you name any servants in YOUR life? I can name a few.

There are some people who simply go to church. Then there are others who ARE the church. They're the ones who volunteer so others don't have to do the work and can enjoy the service. It's the ladies in the nursery, it's the Sunday school teachers, the people who clean the church when no one is watching.

D. L. Moody once said that, "Character is what you are in the dark." When people are watching we are always on our best behavior. But when we are home by ourselves we can lead totally different lives.

When I think of a servants heart I think of someone who always puts others first. I think that's great. Allowing others to go before them in line at the grocery store,  Opening a door for someone who has their hands full. Acts of random kindness and service are getting harder and harder to find these days and that's a shame.

We are called to love one another. Not as the world loves but as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as an atoning sacrifice.

"1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." - Ephesians 5:1-2

Imagine a political debate based on self-sacrifice and serving others. Things would be totally different if we thought about others before we would think about ourselves.

I have a sweat shirt that say "I Am Second" on the front. That doesn't go far enough. It should say, "I Am Last."

"16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” - Matthew 20:16

Be on the lookout for those elusive servants of God. Their numbers are dwindling. It you see one, tell them, "I saw that!" On second thought you'd better not. They like to work in secret so no one knows it was them.
Special Athlete featuring 'Get Back Up' by TobyMac

Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Abortion

Today's story is NOT about what the title might indicate. It's about our natural tendency to remain motionless when it seems rather obvious to us that God wants us to be moving.

My friend and I were having a discussion the other day about the evil of abortion. We had both just listened to a radio interview of an author who had written a book about Dr. Kermit Gosnell - Americas Most Prolific Serial Killer. Graphic descriptions of abortion procedures were portrayed and, in the end I felt a new sense of conviction in my heart about this murderous procedure. How could ANYONE have an abortion!?! I was about to find out . . . that I had already had one.

The following day I was listening to a message by Chuck Swindoll. It was about applying what we learn in the Bible to the living out of our daily lives. It was a fairly convicting message about obedience and faithfulness. Pastor Swindoll gave the following quote which he attributed to Howard George Hendrick - his professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. It was a slap in the face to me. A wake up call.

"If you observe and interpret and correlate the scriptures, but fail to apply the scriptures, you have committed an abortion."

Well, that's a fairly shocking statement. But as I began to examine my life and my decisions, my failure to act or to speak in certain situations, I began to understand what Mr. Hendrick meant.

You have heard it said that God has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). You have also heard it said that God gives us gifts to be used for His glory (1 Peter 4:10). And you have also heard it said that God gives us new life in Him (Ephesians 2)

If we have been born again, with new life, and we have been given gifts, specifically for bringing God glory through their use, what if we don't use them? What if we ignore the gifts that God gives us and refuse to act. Aren't we in effect, killing the very thing God created in us? Aren't we aborting God's plan for us?

We are all good at something. Our challenge is to figure out what we can do to glorify God using the gifts that we have been given. It's not all that hard to figure out. What's difficult is getting off our butts to do it. We get overly comfortable with the lives we live. But guess what . . . "comfortable" is not where God is.

I spoke earlier about MY "abortion". . . my not acting by not using my gifts at times. For example, I have been given the gift of compassion and mercy by God. I don't use those gifts as often or as intentionally as I should. I allow other things to get in the way. That is a sin to me. God created me to do those things and when I don't do them, the person God created me to be in that moment dies. Oh Lord, may I be ever watchful and ever mindful of situations where my gifts could be used for your glory.

We all need to follow where God leads us. Sometimes it can be a bit scary to do so. But if we follow where God leads us we can actually be the Pro-Life Christians we claim to be. Let us not get comfortable in our faith but follow where God leads us. May we be obedient to our calling and glorify HIS Name above ALL names.

Don't Get Comfortable - Brandon Heath
The Parable Of The Talents

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Parable of The Tasty Buns

Yesterday afternoon at work we received a most joyous e-mail. Texas Roadhouse had dropped off some of their amazing dinner rolls and signature cinnamon butter for us to sample.

Wow! Did the news spread fast about those amazingly tasty buns! You could actually hear people running down the stairs and through the halls. Everybody was familiar with the tasty buns from Texas Roadhouse.

Still, there were some people who were not interested. Obviously insane. But more likely on a diet of some kind or they were still full from lunch. Still, being gifted something like this doesn't happen everyday. Or does it?

How did you feel when you first came to know Jesus? Are you one of the ones who had a mountaintop experience and that sudden realization that Jesus was real? That was how it was for me. Man, I could not WAIT to tell people what had just happened. The only problem with evangelism is . . . not everyone wants to hear the message.

Perhaps we need to take a lesson from Texas Roadhouse in our evangelism efforts. We already have an amazing product" in our Saviors offer of eternal life and the forgiveness of all of our sins. But how can we get other people to sample what Jesus has to offer? That's easy. Love.

My wife says that the rolls from Texas Roadhouse are a little sweet. That's why they taste so good. Perhaps our witnessing to others about the love of Christ should be sweet as well. Sweetened with the same kind of love He gives to us.

I'm not advocating sugar coating the Gospel, the consequences of sin and the need for repentance like some preachers do. But I AM suggesting we love a little people a little better than we do. That unconditional love we show others is a telltale sign of a true Christian.

We cannot change anyone's mind regarding their beliefs. But we can love others and patiently wait as God's Holy Spirit does the changing. And pray.

We have incredible news to share with the rest of the world - the Good News of The Gospel. How amazingly beautiful must that news be to someone who is dying and in a state of hopelessness.They're everywhere. Let's offer them a sample of Christ's love for us. Perhaps then they will see that the Lord is good! :)

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him." - Psalm 34:8

"7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"" - Isaiah 52:7

O Taste and See - Jenn Johnson

Monday, October 17, 2016

I Miss You

As we live our lives we can sometimes leave an impression on others. Sometimes this impression is good. Sometimes it is bad. When you think of someone, what feelings come to mind? Do you remember good times or bad? Happy? Or sad?

Look at your list of friends on Facebook. When was the last time you saw them? When was the last time you sat down with them and had a real conversation with them? When was the last time you  prayed for them? Or better yet, WITH them?

Our lives can seem to be all about us most of the time. WE are always here. But our friends and family members are not always with us. In those quiet moments when we are by ourselves, that's the time we miss our friends and family. That's the time we wish we could be talking to them. To give them a hug and to just BE with them.

Who was the last person you talked with? A spouse? A close friend? When was the last time you sat down with someone and had a conversation over lunch or coffee?

One of the most common comments I hear from kids who graduated high school is, "All of my friends have left me." People go their own ways, they get jobs, they move away, the enlist in the military. They are gone and we miss them.

So, how do we fix that? How can we fill the empty holes in our hearts? Well, the first thing you can do is reach out to those you miss. When they pop into your head, message them. Let them know you miss them and are thinking about them.

The second thing you can do is get involved someplace by volunteering. You have heard me write before about my volunteering at Ruby's Pantry - a local food pantry for those in need of food. I leave that place each month feeling great. Why? Because I have loved others. I have listened to their stories. I have prayed with them. They have become friends and have helped fill the holes in my heart left there by the laving of others.

Jesus commanded us to "love one another." That guy knew what He was talking about! There is great joy to be found in loving those around us. If you have a hole in your heart left there by someone you once called friend, fill it.

My challenge for you today is to tell someone that you love them. But do more than that. Do it in person. Let them see you smile. Give them a hug. Let them know that the love of Christ is in you by showing it to someone today.

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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Open Our Eyes

Sitting in the park on Mackinac Island, my wife and I were eating our lunch. We love to people watch and that's just what we were doing. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping their way to some destination, bicyclists doing the same . . . at three or four times the horses speed.

Pedestrians were everywhere, walking both sides of the street and crossing the street. For such a small little town that doesn't allow motorized vehicles, there sure was a lot of traffic!

Just as I was taking my last bite of Doud's pizza, I noticed a couple crossing the street, arm in arm. One was talking in a rather animated way while the other swung a long, white cane back and forth in front of his feet. He was blind.

That got me to thinking. What would it be like to have never seen anything? My socks would never match. I would not be able to have the job that I do. I couldn't see the face of my grandson, or my kids, or my wife.

Of course there are some benefits as well. I could no longer see any political ads. Facebook would be useless. There would be no scantily-clad women to see on television anymore, no need for window washers, I'd save thousands on gas for my car. Heck, I could SELL my car!

But then I thought about all of the people who don't believe in God. They are spiritually blind. I was that way myself 11 years ago. Blinded to the fact that God is real.

I had no interest in knowing God because he wasn't real to me. Just some fairy tale mythical creature in an old story from my childhood Sunday School.

One thing I have had to deal with after coming to believe is the knowledge that God does not call everybody to His kingdom. He wishes that none would perish but also knows that some will. And some of those people we will know and love.

I have had the pleasure of being blind, spiritually, and then coming to see. It is a wonderful thing! But until you have faith in God it will never happen to you.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” - John 9:1-11

I think I could handle being blind. I could adjust to a different way of life. But I don't think I could live a life without Jesus. Knowing what I know now, having once been blind only to have my eyes opened, I would have surely perished. But faith in Christ changes that. The gift of eternal life is offered to everyone. Jesus died for everyone.

Open our eyes, Lord. Make us see.

And Now My Lifesong Sings - Casting Crowns

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How Do You Say Hello?

Have you ever noticed all of the different ways we greet each other? There is a wide range of greeting styles from different personalities and from people living different lives. Each greeting is based on who we are as a person and is related to how we are feeling at that particular moment and/or how the person at the other end of the greeting is perceived to be feeling. Our greetings can also depend on how long it has been since we've seen a particular person.

When you pass a stranger on the street do you say anything to them? I usually do not and I think that MOST people don't say anything either. Some of us might say, "Hi." or, for the REALLY adventurous among us, "Good morning." But usually there is no greeting at all offered to strangers. Not even eye contact. Why not?

Contrast that with a loving family. When my family gets together for a family reunion for example, there are lots of hugs. There are kisses on the cheek, warm embraces and smiles for everyone. We haven't seen each other for months, maybe even years.

When my wife and I go away on a long trip, I often say goodbye to some of my co-workers - a few of them receive hugs. They are like family members to me.

For the past several years I have the great joy of serving at a food pantry once each month. I have come to know and love the people who come through the line there. They are also like family to me. We greet each other lovingly, like family, with hugs, smiles and warm conversations.

Greeting someone we DON'T get along with, or someone we have had a disagreement with, can be awkward at best and sometimes downright nasty. Why is that? Pride perhaps? An unwillingness to admit a wrong? Or a stubbornness not to forgive? That is not right.

Have you read the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau? They were half brothers who didn't play well with one another in their youth. They were about to meet again after many years apart. What did Jacob do when he learned Esau was on his way to see him?

Jacob sent Esau a rather large gift and then, when Jacob saw his brother coming, Jacob bowed down to him - not once but seven times. And how did Esau respond to Jacob after they had spent their entire childhoods at odds with one another?

33 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept."
- Genesis 33:1-4

Want to see something cool? Look at Luke 15 and see if you can see any similarities between Jacob and Esau's greeting and the greeting of the Father and the prodigal son.

“20 But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." - Luke 15:20

God instructs us in His Word that we are to love one another (John 13:34). That is NOT a suggestion. That is a COMMAND from God. If we call ourselves Christians we are to love one another . . . without exception. Now, how do you think we should greet one another on the street?

Should we continue to ignore all of the strangers we meet? Should we smile and say hello? Should we walk right up the them and give them a hug? And how would we greet Jesus if we saw HIM on the street? Why should there be any difference?

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Greet one another warmly. Otherwise . . .

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. - Matthew 25:44-46

God said "Hello" to us when He called us to join His family. He said "Hello" with open arms and a kiss on the cheek. Let us say "Hello" to someone today that we usually pass by. Who knows. Perhaps we will be "entertaining angels" (Hebrews 13:2) when we do so.

Free Hug Campaign
Entertaining Angels - Newsboys

Monday, October 10, 2016

Emergency Exit

My wife and I took a bus trip to Mackinac Island this past weekend. Well, not ALL the way to the island. The last few miles would have been pretty wet!! LOL!

We thought we’d try a bus trip because that’s what old people do when they're getting old, right? Ha ha! Not really. But there WERE a lot of old people on the bus.

So we climbed aboard and I started looking around at the interior. Cool little cup holder on the back of the seat in front of us. Tinted windows, air conditioning, And a bathroom!! Did I mention I’m getting old? Well, so is my bladder. (Too much information.)

The bus has one main door up front with a winding stairway up to the seating level. We are WAY up in the air. I mean we look down on the semi drivers that as we pass by.

Then I noticed an access door in the roof of the bus. The sign on it says Emergency Exit. It’s in the roof. How are we supposed to get up there? I suppose if the bus is on its side after an accident, lying on its one and only entrance door, the hatch would come in pretty handy.

Just beyond the exit hatch in the ceiling there is another sign for the stairs. It reads Watch Your Step. But from where I was sitting it looked like the Watch Your Step sign was for the roof hatch . . . in the ceiling

I smiled at the picture forming in my mind.

You see, This particular bus was filled with Christians. The trip was sponsored by a Christian radio station I listen to on my drive to and from work. All this means very little I guess until I mention the word “rapture”. The Bible says in the book of Thessalonians that when Jesus returns we will “meet Him in the sky. SO, what happens if Jesus returns while we're on the bus?

NOW, does the exit hatch and the Watch Your Step sign have any new meaning for you? It does for me! Ha ha ha!

I enjoyed the possibility of exiting the bus through the ceiling should Jesus return as we rode along. And I enjoyed the fact that our bus came equipped with a heavenly escape hatch so we wouldn't hit our heads! Are YOU ready to exit this place? Blessed be the name of The Lord!!

"15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words." - 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

The Rapture - John MacArthur

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Covered In Grace

Not that long ago I wrote a story about how we humans tend to SEE things but we don't really OBSERVE or PERCEIVE like we should. We can be guilty of this without really knowing it. Like ME, for example.

The company I work for is putting an addition onto our building. It's fun watching the building going up and to actually see the fruits of our labor. We drew the plans for the project and now, there it is. We're observing it being built, right before our very eyes.

You've had a little time to look at the opening picture for this story. Tell me, what did you see? Take a close look now. Specifically, take a look at the roof. Do you see anything worthy of a story for this blog? Perhaps if I zoomed in a little you will be able to see it.

The underlayment for the yet-to-be-installed shingles is made by a company named "Grace." Our office building is literally covered with Grace!!! I can't make this stuff up. It's just too unbelievable.

Our lives are covered with grace too. Just like Grace roofing underlayment protects our new office from ice and rain damage, God's grace and mercy protect us from the coming wrath and the just penalty for those who refuse to believe and are found dead in their sins.

The roof of our new addition is a visible reminder of God's love for each of us. He covers us with His grace as we grow and mature in our faith.

The building below the roof was raw and unfinished when the Grace went on the roof, but now the building has windows, electrical and plumbing inside it. The walls will soon be finished and painted, the exterior will receive brick and finish metal trim. The building will be made beautiful - all under Grace. And so it is with us.

Our sanctification is a life-long process under God's grace. He continues to teach us and instruct us as we slowly become "finished" in God's eyes. God is transforming us into the image of His Son - Jesus. And it is by God's grace that we "covered" and it was the sacrifice of Jesus that paid the price.

"20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." - Romans 3:20-22

We would be lost . . . but for the grace of God.

But for The Grace of God - Keith Urban

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Open Your Eyes

Okay. Are you ready for a vision test. Take a look at this picture and tell me what you see. The face of Jesus is to most obvious thing but take a closer look. Do you see people standing off to the left? To the right? Probably. But do you see Jesus riding on a donkey? Do you see the stone arch in the background creating a halo over the head of Jesus? Or is His hair actually the inside of the arch that the people are standing in?

In the Book of Mark, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah saying, "‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” - Isaiah 6:9, Mark 4:12

We tend to see things based on our own personal experiences and through the lens of the things we have learned.

Currently we have several people running for the office of President of The United States. They all have eyes and they all can see but each of them sees things differently. The same can be said of our churches. That's why there are so many different denominations.

Everybody has heard of Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective. Sherlock gives us another example similar to Isaiah 6 from the book A Scandal in Bohemia. Speaking to Watson, Holmes says,

You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”


 “How often?”

 “Well, some hundreds of times.”

 “Then how many are there?”

 “How many? I don't know.”

 “Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

The other day my wife and I were at our grandson's birthday party. He's four years old already! We were preparing to pray before our meal that day and his mother said to him, "It's time to pray. Fold your hands."

He folded his hands, closed his eyes and bowed his head. One could easily see an obedient child but his actions also demonstrated a child who has been trained in the ways of The Lord. No one told him to bow his head or to close his eyes but someone clearly had told him to do that in the past. We can observe things about people simply by watching them.

I once asked someone at work how they were doing. "Fine," they said. But I observed in this persons eyes a different story so I asked again. That's when the tears began to flow. We then prayed together and now we are amazingly close friends, simply by observing . . . and acting.

As we live our lives, people will be watching US. What do THEY preserve about us? Will they think we are educated? Will they think we are nice? Caring" Giving? Will they think we are Christians simply by watching us?

Anybody can walk into a church. That's where Christians hang out, right? Wrong. Christians don't just simply go to church, they LIVE their faith. They are taught by their parents, they read God's Word and they live it out.

Our pastor delivered an amazing closing line to his sermon on Sunday. He asked us a question.

Knowing that God can see into our hearts . . . what will He see in yours?


May we live our lives as Jesus would. Always seeing AND preserving. May we take the time to look behind the fake smiles and into the hearts of those around us. There is hurting everywhere. And we hold The First Aid Kit in our hearts - Jesus. Let us reach out in love to those who are only seeing and not yet perceiving.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7

You Give Love A Bad Name - Bon Jovi
Another Brick In The Wall Part 2 - Pink Floyd

Monday, October 3, 2016

Need Some Energy This Morning?

My wife and I participated in the Ice Age Trail Hike-A-Thom this past Saturday. Neither one of us was expecting to walk as many miles as we did. We were expecting to take a nice, leisurely walk through God's creation. Instead, we found ourselves on a 10-mile, up one hill, down the next kind of "death march."

Of sure, they had a watering station at the four mile mark where we received an apple and a tiny cup of water to drink. When the day was done, which was about 4:00 in the afternoon, my wife and I could be found slumped on our couch, fearing any movement . . . sure that pieces of us would simply fall off if we did.

Then on Sunday we went to our grandson's 4th birthday party, watching in amazement his limitless energy. Oh, how we wished we had that!! Now that we have so many things to get accomplished before the winter. To have our grandson's energy and his seemingly limitless physical potential would be a miracle.

Our walks with The Lord can be like my wife and me on Saturday - out of energy, listless, and slumped on the couch. How do we get that energy back? Where do we begin to regain that form we once had?

I picked up my Bible this morning and began reading Genesis 28 - the story of Jacob's dream. He too had walked all day. When he stopped for the night he had a dream, during which God spoke to him. When Jacob awoke we was full of energy and excited about what God had in story for Him. He suddenly was aware of the land he was in and how beautiful it was.

Boy, could we use some of THAT energy this Monday morning! Right?

Funny thing is, we HAVE that energy already inside us. We have had the knowledge that we are children of God and, just like Jacob, we have been given a great gift. Jacob received the land that was promised to his father and grandfather. He also received a promise that he would be the father of a great nation and have many descendants.

And so this morning I think about MY family - both heavenly and earthly. I think of God's promises for a new body . . . a new energy, in Christ Jesus. It's time to get up and make this a great day! We are children of the King!! Let us be glad and rejoice in it!

21 I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.
22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save now, I pray, O Lord;
O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.
29 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever." - Psalm 118:21-29
His Love Endures Forever - Michael W. Smith

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Need For Repentance

There are times we leave church feeling really wonderful and uplifted. There are also times when we leave church feeling incredibly convicted and down on ourselves. But it's not just church. The same thing happens when we read the Bible or hear some particular lyrics in a song. Why it that?

Let me give you an example. Amazing Grace is a really uplifting song for me. Check out these lyrics.

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on a cross, my burdens gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.

Wow! That fact that God would do that for us amazes me and it lifts me up just knowing that God cares about us THAT MUCH. :)

Here's an example of a song that convicts me. It's by the Sidewalk Prophets.

If I saw You on the street and You said, "Come and follow me."
But I had to give up everything; all I once held dear and all of my dreams.
Would I love You enough to let go, or would my love run dry when you asked for my life?

And now for the convicting chorus, as if the first verse wasn't enough . . .

When did love become unmoving, when did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me, Father of Love, You can have me. You can have me.


I heard that song on my way to work Thursday morning, the day after I had written my last story for this blog. I felt convicted about that particular story because it was more of a rant about our two presidential candidates that is was about the God I love.

And so today I write THIS story about repentance. I am writing about the conviction I felt upon hearing a song lyric that made me take action and repent of something I did.

Do you ever hear songs like that or a sermon on a Sunday morning that makes you change the direction of your thinking? They are usually rare but when they occur they can be life changing. It is God's Holy Spirit working in us. Refining us. Changing us.

It's good to have those moments of incredible highs and humbling lows because most days I tend to drift back towards the world I came out of - a world God called separated from. We must always be on guard against drifting back . . . backsliding into who we used to be.

Or love SHOULD be consuming! It should be MOVING! When it's not, we must examine ourselves and make corrections because we are definitely to "be holy, as I am holy" (Leviticus 20:26). To be "holy" means to be "set apart."

I re-wrote my story from Wednesday. You can read it here. If you have read it before I invite you to read it again to see if it have become more God honoring than it was before. I hope you will find it a better example of a "Christian" blog than you did on Wednesday.

Thank you Lord for sending your Holy Spirit who moves in us and through us. He convicts us of our sin, He draws us nearer to You. He is our interpreter - making our words acceptable to your ears. (He had a lot of work to do this past Wednesday for this servants story). Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy and for teaching us to "walk humbly this our Lord" (Micah 6:8)

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised (the Holy Spirit); but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” - Luke 24:45-49

Amazing Grace - Alan Jackson
You Can Have Me - Sidewalk Prophets