Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Help!!


The office where I work is currently being remodeled. Old materials are being replaced with new. There is new paint on the walls, new carpet on the floors, and new music on the intercom system. The all-Beatles channel!

Now, I like the Beatles as much as the next guy but I've been listening to the Beatles for five weeks straight now at work and . . . I need some . . . Help!!

However, this sudden immersion into the songs of my teen years has allowed me to hear these songs in a new way. There are many songs that can be taken "two ways" and the Beatles song Help! is one of those songs. The interpretation of the lyrics depends on your view of the world.

Let's examine the first line of the song for example.

"When I was younger so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in anyway."

Form a secular world view it sounds like an older person, remembering his or her youth, and how they never asked for anybody's help back then. They were too prideful perhaps.

Now read that same line again only from a Biblical world view.

"When I was younger so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in anyway."

Suddenly it sounds like a mature believer reflecting on his immature youth and recognizing his need for help . . . for a Savior.

"Now I find I've changed my mind I've opened up the doors."
He's changed his mind.  And opened up the door?

"7 Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in!" - Psalm 24:7

And the chorus sounds more like a prayer than anything else.

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
 And I do appreciate you being 'round
 Help me get my feet back on the ground
 Won't you please, please help me?

"16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. 17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me." - Psalm 86:16-17

When we place out faith in Jesus, calling out to God to help us in our time of need, He will answer that prayer. He will open the door. He will help us get back on our feet. Whenever we are down, He will lift us up. How wonderful to have a God who cares, who provides a solid rock upon which we can stand. Our great God who helps those who love Him.

Help! - The Beatles

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Numbering of Days

What would we do if we knew the exact day of our death? How would we react? What would we do with our remaining days? Would we live our lives any differently than we do now? Or would we become changed somehow because of the knowledge of our end?

In the Book of Job we read about a wealthy man who underwent an incredible set of catastrophes in his life. He lost everything - his possessions, his children , his health. He cried out to God to leave him alone so that he might enjoy the days he had left.

"5 Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, 6 look away from him and leave him alone, that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day." - Job 14:5

Job went through a lot. Would we act any differently than Job if faced with all of the troubles he went through? Job was hoping that God would leave him alone and let him live out his remaining days in peace. Iss that what we want from God?

There is another man in the Bible who was struggling in life. Someone was pursuing him, trying to kill him. Only his take on the numbering of HIS days was different.

4 “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!" - Psalm 39:4

This man's name was David. He wanted to know the number of his days so he could live them more effectively, for God.

When I read that verse this week I wondered, "If I knew the number of my days, how would I live them? Would I live them more intentionally than I do now? Would I live my remaining days with a sense of purpose to them, knowing that I would be dying soon?"

My friend Ali died of cancer a few weeks ago. Cancer patients and those with terminal illnesses often are told how many years or months they have remaining. Do they live their remaining days any differently? I think they do. My friend Ali did.

The question we must ask ourselves is, "Where do I place my hope?" In doctors? Or in Jesus? What should be the purpose of our last days? Should it be checking items off some bucket list of things to do "before you kick the bucket"? What a waste.

When I was a kid my answer to the "What would you do if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?" question was "Rob a bank today so I could have lots of money to do stuff with. Hmm, when I was a child I thought like a child.

Today, my answer is much different. My hope is found not in money or physical things. No. My hope is in the Creator of ALL things. My hope is in the one who created each of us in His own image. My hope is in The Lord God Almighty.

"12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12

Father, teach me to number my days so I may be reminded of whose I am and the reason you created me. I was made to worship. I was made to praise you. I was made to love you and to love others. I was not made to complete a bucket list. I was not made for selfish reasons. I was not made to entertain myself, I was made for YOU. Let me live all of my days . . . in You, Lord.

7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you." - Psalm 39:7

My Hope Is In You - Aaron Shust
My Life Is In You, Lord - Joseph  Garlington

Saturday, June 17, 2017

You And Me

So what happened? The life that we had planned together, for our family and our future, has faded away. All that remains now are the echoes of memories and what-could-have-beens. Where did things go wrong?

If you are human you have probably experienced the pain of a loss or of a broken relationship. Deaths are easier to understand I think. A person in our life dies. We get that. People die. But the death of a relationship among the living carries with it many more things to deal with.

There are the questions, of course. "Why?" is probably the biggest one. Why did the relationship end. Was it something I said? Was it something somebody has done? Questions are haunting things. They lead to sleepless nights, self-doubt and loneliness. What we need are answers. Those can be hard to come by.

There are some people in this world who are users. That's what we used to call them anyway. People who are in relationships for their own gratification. They consume freely, but they don't commit fully. When the storms come they tend to abandon ship. They don't ride things out for the sake of the relationships or the other person in it.

The 13th chapter of Corinthians is often called "the love chapter". In it we can find a list of things that true love should be.

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love does not envy or boast
Love is not arrogant or rude
Love does not insist on its own way
Love is not irritable or resentful
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing
Love bears ALL THINGS
Love believes ALL THINGS
Love hopes ALL THINGS
Love endures ALL THINGS

When we are resentful in our relationships, that is NOT love. When we are rude, there is no love there in that moment. If I had to describe the characteristics of love in two words those words would be "unconditional love." And if I was only allowed ONE words to describe what love is, that word would have to be "God".

"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." - 1 John 4:16-21

The key to fining unconditional love is finding God, first. We can think we know what love is but unless God is part of our relationships, TRUE love is not there. We may think it is but, if we don't know God, we will never know the heights and the depths of love. God . . . is . . . love.

"38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." - 1 John 4:7

You And Me - Lifehouse
Slow Fade - Casting Crowns

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Integrity

Everyday we are presented with opportunities to either succeed or to fail. Sometimes the tests are easy. Other times they are more difficult. Like yesterday for example.

I received a call from my insurance company. They wanted to know how my recovery was going from the accident I had five weeks ago. Gee, that was nice of them. They also wanted to know if I had missed any work because of the accident. Why? Because they wanted to reimburse me for lost wages. However I had already taken the two days I missed as "sick days" and had already been paid for them.

There it was. An opportunity to either succeed or to fail. This would be a good time to consult the Bible about what to do. Proverbs seems like a good place to look.

"25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. " - Proverbs 4:25-26

"Integrity - the choice between what's convenient and what's right." - Tony Dungy

C. S. Lewis said, "Integrity is doing the right thing. Even when no one is watching."

I was presented with an opportunity to gain hundreds of dollars by simply allowing the insurance company to pay me the money. There is absolutely no one stopping me from receiving a check in the mail to spend on what ever I wish. Well, that's not quite true. There are two people - me, and this guy.

"Yet you know me, Lord; you see me and test my thoughts about you." - Jeremiah 12:3

God watches our every move. He knows what choices are the right ones to make and which ones will lead down a path He doesn't want us to take. He sees what we see and He knows what choices we will make before we have even made them.

"3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." - Proverbs 21:3

Integrity Test - "Courageous" movie


Monday, June 12, 2017

Light Up The Darkness

Have you ever gone to a jeweler to look at some diamonds? Yeah, me neither, but I have heard that when they show you their diamonds they place them on a piece of black velvet. I guess that's so they appear as bright as possible against the dark cloth and are therefore more attractive to the buyer.

One thing that's always bothered me about "the church" is why it looks so much like the world around us? Despite being "saved" we continue to live sinful lives. The divorce rate among Christians is basically the same as unbelievers. There is adultery in the church, stealing, pride, greed . . . we're just like everybody else. The Bible says we are to be holy, set apart from the rest of the world. Shouldn't we stand out and being different?

"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed (The Holy Spirit) remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister." - 1 John 2:9-10

There are several young adult couples that I know who profess to be Christians yet are living together "in sin" as they say. And what about Christians who hate others? That's a sin. Does that mean they are not really Christians? Based on that verse we just read, I think it does.

And then there's me. I try but still failing in serving God as much as I should. Why don't I do more? Why don't I spend more time in prayer and worship. Why don't I take more time out of my to speak to others about you, to pray with them, to love them?

We ALL sin. Everyday. But there is a big difference, I think, between committing a sin and wallowing in it. Christians are not to be "wallowers." Swine are. Maybe that's why the Bible doesn't think to highly of them.

Jesus told us that, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." - John 14:15. Uh-oh. So what's our problem? If we profess belief why aren't we living it?

Exactly.

There is a verse in Joshua 24 that reads, "14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” - Joshua 24:14-15

The key to all of this is choosing whom we will serve. In my opinion, either we are serving God or we are serving ourselves.

Most Christian theologians agree that we are currently living in the end times as prophesied in the Bible. Jesus coming to earth for His children is Biblically imminent. There is no event that must take place to announce His return - only the sudden rapture of His church. I would think that, if we are Christians, we should act like it . . . especially now!

As we walk through this dark world "let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). When we see a brother or a sister wallowing in sin, let us LOVINGLY come along side them and speak our concern for them. But the responsibility for changing them is not our job. That is God's job, along with the Holy Spirit.

You and I were called to SHINE. We are called to be HOLY. So let's light up the darkness with all we've got and shine our light for the whole world to see. Let us fulfill the reason God created us in the first place. Shine a light!

Washed By The Water - Needtobreathe

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Parable of The Master Gardener

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about this morning until I watched my wife transplant a bush in our yard last night. It was quite a chore for her but she was determined to move it. There were lots of roots to be cut and lots of dirt to be dug. But by moving that plant my wife also provided a deeper, more meaningful lesson to be learned about life.

The bush wasn't really producing where is was so my wife bought a new plant for that location and moved the original plant to a new spot in our yard. Painful for the plant being moved I'm sure but my wife moved it to a location where she hoped it would thrive.

God provides so many lessons to be learned in our lives. Many of them can be learned simple by observing nature or the relationships we have.

Have you ever heard the phrase "Bloom where you're planted"? It means to "take advantage of the opportunities we have in life and be grateful in our present situation."

The bush in our yard simply did not bloom where is was planted so it was replaced and moved to a different location where it was given another opportunity to bloom. I am convinced that God does the same thing for you and me.

"20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. 21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you - although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them." - 1 Corinthians 7:20-24

When I reflect on where God has planted me in my life "when I was called" it is easy to see the Master Gardener's overarching plan in my life.

There have been several times in my life at work when relationships have bloomed because of God's foreknowledge and plan. God planted me at work and He gave me two gifts to help others grow - fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). They are compassion (mercy) and encouragement (exhortation).

This past week I used those gifts and prayed with and comforted a friend at work who was suffering trough the loss of a close friend. The month before I prayed with a life-long friend and co-worker who was undergoing some life-altering surgery. I have prayed with another who was going through a messy divorce and another who struggled with the death of a mentor.

I tell you these things not to brag  but to show you how good God is when He can use even a wimpy, spindly plant like me for His ultimate glory. And God, in the amazing way He does things, has turned each of those "acquaintances" in to dear, precious friends.

Where has God "planted" you? Is there a situation at work or in your life where you could use the gifts God has given you? I encourage you to keep your eyes open. God provides opportunities nearly every day for us to honor Him by our showing His love to the people in our lives.

I have a friend who is a master gardener. She likes to take strolls through her garden and take pictures of her plants for all to see. I that any different from what God does with us?

God is the Master Gardener. We are His plants. The way we bloom is a reflection of The Gardener's skills. May we bloom brightly and beautifully where we have been planted. And may God, the great Master Gardener, continue to water us and nurture us to produce a bountiful crop of fruit in this amazing garden He has made.

I had all
But given up
Desperate for
A sign from love
Something good
Something kind
Bringing peace to every corner of my mind
Then I saw the garden
Hope had come to me
To sweep away the ashes
And wake me from my sleep


The Garden - Kari Jobe

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Something's Wrong

If you look out our living room window you can see a robin's nest. It's right there. It is literally two feet from our house.

One day, when mama robin was off the nest, I peeked inside and saw three blue eggs. My wife and I were excited. Soon there would be baby birds! We've never had a family of birds in our yards, despite living in the woods.

We were excited about watching them grow and, someday, taking wing. But one day the mama robin wasn't sitting on her nest anymore. Something went wrong. Without mother robin on the nest the eggs cooled and they never hatched.

We were so excited. And then we were disappointed and sad. Life can be like that sometimes. When things don't so exactly as we planned. Something goes wrong and we find ourselves questioning things. It's almost like we begin searching for things that are sure and solid and won't disappoint.

Let me tell you about Jesus. He is the only person I know who will NEVER disappoint. His Word, The Bible, is a place we can turn to ALWAYS find truth.

Robins have nowhere to turn. They just go on searching for worms. They can act as if they don't even care when eggs don't hatch. We, however, are humans. Things effect us, they things bother us. We have a need to be comforted in our  pain.

Jesus is the answer.

When something goes wrong I often will open my Bible to the Book of Romans. After reading the following passage I usually pray and thank God for that things I DO have and the blessings I already have been given.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:18-39
Amen.

There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Your Love Never Fails - Jesus Culture

Monday, June 5, 2017

Run To Win

Two weeks after Vince Lombardi led his Green Bay Packers to a 33-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II, he retired as head coach of the Packers. He went out on top, winning the first two Super Bowls and three national championships before that.

The leagues championship trophy is named The Lombardi Trophy. Why? Because it epitomizes winning. It's about being the best. Vince Lombardi was all about winning. But not necessarily in the way you might think

Lombardi instilled character in his players. He made them into men. Honorable men.

Do you know that there is a three word phrase inscribed on the Super Bowl II rings? Lombardi had it put there. It is a reference to a Bible verse. Look real close near the bottom of Bart Starr's ring pictured at the right.

"Run To Win"

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win." - 1 Corinthians 9:24

Run To Win.

Why would God want us to run a race to win it? Jesus tells us that "the last will be first" in Matthew 20:16. Let's read a little before and after that "run to win" verse to see if things become clearer.

"19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
- 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

What is the prize we are trying to win? In Paul's case the prize is running his race, his life, in such a way to win the prize - to bring others to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

I have a friend named Mark who led someone to Christ by having a beer with them. Mark doesn't drink but he saw it as a means to an end. Mark's beer drinking bud was so amazed that a "Christian" would drink a beer with him that he listened to Mark and heard the Gospel message. Mark ran in such a way as to win.

Am I running MY race to win? How am I leading others to Christ? Do they even know where the finish line is? Do I? How can I become a better runner? Verse 25 has the answer. Strict Training! Read God's Word, strike up relationships with others so you can earn the right to speak into their lives. We must do whatever needs to be done so we can have the opportunity to share the Gospel with others.

Yes, that can be dangerous. But the alternative of not sharing the Gospel is far worse for the person who does not know Jesus. We are all in a race but most of us aren't even running. Are we running to win?

On your mark, get set, GO!!

Running To Win - Heather Dorniden
Run To Win - CSI Christ Church Youth Fellowship

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Man's Limitations

In the 1973 movie Magnum Force, Clint Eastwood offered up one of his classic Dirty Harry tag lines at the end of the movie. I didn't know it then, but that line was instrumental in my maturing as both a man and a follower of Jesus. Want to know what it is? Well, do ya, punk?

First, let's open up our Bibles to The Book of John, the first chapter. In verse six we meet a man named John. John, the Baptist. People are coming to him and are being baptized with water. Many believe John to be the promised Messiah. He could have become a powerful man by letting them think that and making himself out to be more powerful than he was, but he didn't.

“I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”


Later in Chapter 3 John is still talking about Jesus. This guy had a one-track mind! (And so should we).

"27“A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less. - John 3:27-30

There it is. The key to becoming a mature Christian, or a mature anything for that matter. Dirty Harry offers us the same advice at the end of Magnum Force.

"A man's got to know his limitations" - Dirty Harry.

What memorable words! Almost as popular as "Do you feel lucky punk?" or "Go ahead, make my day."

There are so many "versions" of Christianity in the world today. Which one is right? Well, John and Harry gave us some clues. We need to think more of others than we do of ourselves. We must become less.

Mormonism says if we do enough good deeds we can become gods on our own planets. Jehovah Witnesses make similar good deeds claims in their "works based" faith. Theeir beliefs contradict The Bible. That's why they made a bible of their own. Hmm.

If anyone tells you that you can be given spiritual gifts by men, run. If someone tells you that you can receive whatever you want simply by "declaring" it, run faster. Christians don't get any super powers apart from God's Holy Spirit! We're human. Only God has the power.

Adam and Eve thought they could become like God by tasting the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:
5). That is not who we were created to be. Look at the example of Jesus. We should desire to be like Him, not BE Him.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant," - Philippians 2:5-7

We have to know our limitations. Trying to make ourselves greater than we really are will only lead to death. Ours. We must become less, He must become more. So, let me ask you something. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya? God's truth is far better than a made-up faith. Trust in Him and you won't need luck.

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." - 2 Corinthians 12:9

A Man's Got To Know His Limitations - Dirty Harry
First - Lauren Daigle

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

An Unexpected Treasure

There is a place not far from my home where I have found a treasure. Far from where you'd think it would be, it has been sitting there for years,  right in plain sight. I have probably walked right past it a dozen times and never noticed it the sun hit it just right one day, and there it was.

Lady Slippers are not supposed to grow around where I live. Yet there's one in my back yard. They are normally found in bogs, swamps or wet woods where there is an abundance of natural light. The one in our yard is growing high on a hill in a pine plantation where all the light is filtered. It shouldn't be here . . . but it is.

Have you ever found treasure in unusual places? Think about it. I bet you have.

When you have lost something, where do you usually find it? In the last place you looked, right? Why was it the last place you looked? Because you have already looked in all the places where you thought you would find it. Ironically, if your car keys were where you expected them to be, they wouldn't be lost.

Guess where I found my wife? I found her at a friend's house. I never expected to find my mate at a friends house. Why? Because I wasn't even looking! That's when we find lots of treasures. When we least expect them.

Where did you find Jesus? Some people find Jesus in an alley. Some people find Him at the bottom of a bottle or in a desperate cry for help. find Him in the death of a friend or a loved one. I found Him in a stained glass window. Jesus is never where we expect Him to be.

Two thousand years ago the Jewish leaders never thought they're find their promised Messiah eating and drinking with sinners but that's where He was. Jesus is found when and where we least expect Him and usually when we need Him the most.

The Bible tells us multiple times that is we seek Him with all our hearts we WILL find Him. So, if we haven't found Him yet, where should we start looking? Where would you expect to find Him?

If Jesus came to pay us a visit today where would He be? With the president? The Pope? Nope. He'd be with the poor, the sick, the dying, the sinners - He'd be with people who don't know Him yet.

"16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” - Mark 2:16-17

We can see Jesus today if we'd only look hard enough and in the right places. Are we seeking Him where we expect to find Him? Or will He be in the last place we look. Either way, He is our priceless and unexpected treasure. The most important place to find Him is in your heart.

Every Single One - Geoff Moore

Monday, May 29, 2017

And She'll Be Gone

I usually write about our country's service men and women on Memorial Day. They are the ones who stand up for our country and often, too often, sacrifice their lives for us, for our benefit. Today, however, I am going to write about a different kind of soldier - my friend Ali.

Ali died this past Saturday after an eight-year battle with cancer. She left behind a husband and three daughters. Ali was an amazing mom. She was always looking out for her daughters, wanting them to do what was right.

Her husband Dave was, and is, an amazing example of a Biblical husband - a leader in his family yet a sacrificial servant to all. I have known Dave for 40 years and I have never known him not to be anything but a devoted husband and father.

I first met Ali when she came to see just what kind leaders her youngest daughter Sky had in the youth group she was attending. Not enough parents care that deeply. We must have passed muster because Sky kept coming and Ali and I became good friends. But then came the cancer diagnosis and our relationship changed. It grew stronger.

Ali and I had many amazing conversations, usually lasting an hour or two. She'd talk about her daughters, her husband, the treatments she was receiving. Hmm, you know, I think Ali's doctors feared her. I think that was because she knew more about her treatments, what was right and what was wrong, than her doctors did. That's not saying they knew nothing. It's saying Ali knew a lot!

Our favorite topic though had to have been Jesus. We talked about Him a lot. Now I find myself a little envious of my friend because she has gotten to see Him face-to-face. I can only imagine.

I have prayed with many people in my life. Ali was both the toughest one to pray with and the most enjoyable at the same time. We would pray for each other and for our families. It was always a special time, but the time we prayed after she told me she wasn't going to pursue any more chemo or radiation treatments was probably . . . the best of times and the worst of times.

I have never prayed more deeply or more intentionally with anyone. There is something powerful in holding a friends hands and praying for them, knowing they are going to be dying. Even now, the tears are blurring these words I am typing.

Those who knew Ali were blessed by her. I am grateful and blessed to be called her friend, as are many others, and I am excited for the day when I will get to see her again.

A few weeks before Ali died she sent me a text. She told me that she had had a dream about an angel paying her a visit. "It was so real!" she told me. I believe it seemed real to her . . . because it was.

As we walk through this life God places a wide variety of people in our lives. Each one is placed there for a reason . .  a purpose. I believe Ali was placed in my life to deepen my faith and relationship with Jesus. Our friendship is an example of how ALL friendships should end. Never.

"5 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him." - 2 Corinthians 5:1-9
I love you Ali. Can't wait to see you again, my friend. I don't know whether or not there are any hummingbirds in heaven but I'm sure there is at least one now. LOL! Miss you girl.



I Can Only Imagine - MercyMe 
Cinderella - Stephen Curtis Chapman

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Stand Alone

"Tank Man" in Tiananmen Square, China
Have you ever stood up for something, all by yourself? Have you ever risked it all to make a stand for or against something?

Think about it? Have you ever had the guts, determination or been frustrated enough to actually act?

The guy pictured at the left did. In 1989, a column of approaching tanks was on a mission to quell some government protestors in China. He single-handedly stopped an entire group of advancing tanks. To this day, no one knows his name or whether he is alive or dead.

Rosa Parks
Have you ever heard of a lady named Rosa Parks? She was tired of segregated busses and restaurants in the south back in 1956 so she took a stand . . . or rather, she sat down. Blacks were not allowed to ride on busses unless they sat WAY in the back. Rosa didn't like that so . . .

I was listening to a sermon on my way to work Friday and Chuck Swindoll was talking about Esther. She took a stand and risked her life for the sake of her people.

"12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish."

And then Mordecai delivered this line - a powerful statement in the form of a very pointed question.

"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Wow.

Appearing before the King without being summoned was an offense punishable by death. Yet Esther was willing to take that chance for the sake of her people.

"15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” - Esther 4:12-16

Are we willing, are we capable of making such a stand in OUR lives? During the sermon I listened to Pastor Swindoll said this . . .

"Not until you believe that one person can make a difference, will you be willing to stand alone." - Chuck Swindoll

Are we willing? Will we be willing to stand when the time to do so is upon us? We need to have more than just an "opinion" about something. We need to take action. If we perish, we perish.

What is your stand on abortion? Gay marriage? Religious freedom?

Jesus made a stand. He stood for His Father. May we make the same stand in a world where His Father is being  removed from schools and whose followers are being tortured and killed simply for believing in Him. On this Memorial Day weekend, let us pray.

Presidential Proclamation for Memorial Day Prayer
Man vs. Chinese Tank
Esther: For Such A Time As This - John MacArthur

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Found One!

When my sister and were young we didn't have the toys kids of today have strewn all over the house. We got hand-made gifts at Christmas and we were satisfied. Happy! We didn't know any different.

Entertainment was cheap back then too. I'd spend time hunting for frogs & turtles in the swamp but when Mom and Dad said they were taking us to the Rollways, "Let's go!"

The Rollways are pictured at the left. Old-time loggers used to roll logs down the sand slope and into the Manistee River where they'd float downstream to the sawmill. The hill never recovered from that and still looks pretty bare today. It was in that bare, gravely soil that we found the treasure of our childhood - Petosky Stones!

They were not very plentiful but someone would always yell out when they found one and we'd all go running to see it.

Reading the Bible can be like that. There are Petosky Stone verses scattered all throughout scripture. Here's one that caught my attention this week. It's from the Book of Nehemiah. Found one! :)

They were reading out of the Book of The Law . . .

"13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month (The Festival of Tabernacles) 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written." - Nehemiah 8:13-15

Temporary Shelters . . . Temporary Homes.

Let's move to the New Testament Book of 2nd Corinthians.

"5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." - 2 Corinthians 5:1

What is a tent? Well, it is "a temporary shelter." 2nd Corinthians says that our bodies are a temporary shelter - a temporary dwelling place. We are living on earth, our temporary home if you will. Our permanent home is with our Lord in heaven.

"14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come." - Hebrews 13:14

When I saw the words temporary shelters written in the Old Testament I immediately thought about the New Testament concept of this world being our temporary home. All of the Old Testament festivals have new testament meaning. Look closer. Can you find the "Petoskey Stones," hidden in plain sight in God's Word?

The seven "B.C." festivals were actually prophesied events. Four of the festival prophesies have already been fulfilled. Three have not - The festival of Trumpets (Christ's return), The Day of Atonement (The Great Judgement) and . . . the Festival of Tabernacles (A New Heaven and a New Earth). Our permanent dwelling place.

As we walk through this life, as we read the Bible, let us always be aware that there may be treasure to be found. The treasure of friends, of serving others. In the words we read in the Bible, take the time to search diligently as you read. You wouldn't want to miss a real gem of a verse that has the power to open up your heart even wider than it already is.

Take time this day to read God's Word. Search thoroughly like my mom taught us kids to search for Petoskey stones. You WILL be rewarded. Found one!!

"I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." - Isaiah 45:3

Tips For Finding Petoskey Stones

Monday, May 22, 2017

And Then Depression Set In

This past month hasn't been very enjoyable for me, personally. I have been in a car accident, totalled my car, injured my back and neck. It's been raining more often than not, I have been unable to lift anything, work on my Tiny Home, or find a replacement car. Oh, and I had a trip to the dentist just to round things out. What an amazing month! Not. But wait . . .

While it is true that there have been times when I have felt down, discouraged and depressed. I have hope and excited about the future. Why? Two simple words . . . But God . . .

God always finds ways to bring me out of what ever funk I find myself in. Usually the light in my heart begins to shine again when I stop thinking about myself and begin focusing on others. This time was no exception.

This past Saturday was Ruby's Pantry. Ruby's is a local food distribution for those in our community who have a need. Food is the main thing provided on the third Saturday of each month at Ruby's but prayer is also made available. And love. There is LOTS of love at Ruby's Pantry.

Saturday I saw an old Ruby's friend named Tom. A Vietnam veteran, Tom walks with a limp, has no teeth but always has a cheery disposition and a story to tell. I hadn't seen him for several months, making me concerned for his well being, so seeing his face lifted me up Saturday morning.

Then there was Patricia, another 60-something veteran of life. She too wasn't walking very well. She had a bad knee and a bad back. Doctors told her they could no longer help her, largely because she has no insurance and no money. She told me there are days when she struggles to find a reason to go on living.

I prayed for Patricia, standing right there in the line of people waiting to get their food.

And then there was "Red." I call her that because she had red hair. I never caught her name. She arrived at Ruby's with no coat on a 40-dgree morning. Her lips were blue as she stood outside in line shivering, so I gave her my coat to wear. No big deal.

All of these people showed me that my problems weren't really as bad as I thought they were. God lifted me up emotionally and spiritually by allowing me to speak into their lives, to pray for them and encourage them. But God was not done yet.

The lady I lent my coat eventually returned it to me that morning. Later, still at Ruby's, I was reaching in my coat pocket for some Kleenex and felt a small scrap of paper. That's funny. I don't remember putting a piece of paper . . .

I took it out and opened it up and there I found a hand-written note that said, "Thank you!"

What!?!

So I sought her out and spoke with her about Jesus and how He had transformed my life.  What a blessing that was!

Gee. Where did my depression go? It was totally gone. I was feeling amazing. Why? Because I was thinking about others, not myself. It's that easy.

If you ever find yourself feeling down and depressed, remember those two little words . . . but God. He always has a way of turning a frown upside down and a cloudy day into one filled with sunshine. So rejoice! God is about to do something amazing!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!"

"Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand."

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:4-8



Do Something - Matthew West

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I Can Do All Things

Do you know this man? His name is Stephen Curry. Most people know him as a professional basketball player. But if you asked Stephen, I think he'd rather be known as being something else.

Stephen Curry is a Christian and he doesn't mind telling people so. After each basket he points to heaven. That is a minor thing but words accompany his actions. He wears a Bible verse on his shoes - Philippians 4:13. Even his shoe company has picked up on the verse, using it in their ads.

"13 I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13

When asked about the verse on his shoe Mr. Curry said, "There's more to me than just this jersey I wear, and that's Christ living inside of me. I try to use every game as an opportunity to witness . . . be a witness for Christ. When I step on the floor, people should know who I represent, who I believe in. Jesus is everything to me."

Wow.

When was the last time you or I approached our jobs with THAT attitude? Do we walk down the aisles at work oozing Christ from every pore of our being? Or do we simply go through the motions, punching the clock, not wanting to get into the game?

I have heard people say, "Well, I can't really say stuff about my faith at work. I'll get fired."
To that I say, "Then get fired!"

"Choose this day whom you will serve" - Joshua 24:15

Who are we serving anyway? If we deny who we are in Christ in order to keep our jobs, who are we serving? Certainly not God!

As we walk around town today, as we meet people on the street or in the hallways at work, how will people know we are Christians? We have to be more than "nice." There are plenty of nice atheists in the world. We have to be more than a tee shirt or a cross around our neck. How will we look different than everybody else? The answer is simple. We have to love!!

Do we ooze the love of Christ? When people look at us, do they see Him? Do they think about Jesus when they think about us? They should.

The following link is to a video made by some teens. It's pretty good actually. It perfectly blends with the lyrics provided by Sidewalk Prophets. May it encourage us all to "live like that."

Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets
Testimony: Stories of Active Faith: Stephen Curry

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

To Whom Do We Pray?

When we are desperate . . . when we are willing to try anything to get something we want . . . we can sometimes make a mistake. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is in doing something many Christians have done their lives. Pray.

Now, wait a second. Prayer is not wrong. Let's get that straight right off the bat. The ability to pray is a gift from God. You and I can "approach God's throne of grace with confidence" (Hebrews 4:16). But who should we pray to? Do we pray to God? To Jesus? Who?

Let's start with examining how Jesus Himself told His disciples they should pray. Matthew 6.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." - Matthew 6:5-6

That seems pretty clear. We are to pray to God, our Father, who is in heaven. Let's keep reading.

"Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." - Matthew  6:6-8

Again, Jesus tells them to pray to The Father. Let's keep reading. It doesn't get any clearer than what you are about to read next.

This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven," - Matthew 6:9

That sounds pretty definitive to me! So how come I hear people saying they pray to others besides God? I'm confused. Why do some of us pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit? How do we pray "in Jesus' name" if we are already praying to Jesus? Isn't that redundant?

I found this description at GotQuestions.org. It seemed pretty reasonable to me.

"Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through (or in the name of) the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer. "

Seems reasonable to me. We pray to God, in the name of the Son, through the Holy Spirit.

I have Catholic friends who pray to Mary. These friends also pray to saints or anyone who can intercede on their behalf. Is that right? Isn't Jesus our intercessor?

Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 4:14). There is no longer anyone who stands between us and God, behind the veil. Back in the day there was a high priest who went before God on our behalf, behind the curtain. He walked into the Holy of Holies and spoke directly to God.

When Jesus died the curtain was torn, top to bottom. Top to bottom - from heaven to earth. We no longer need anyone to intercede for us in our prayers to God. But we DO need an intercessor between us and God when it comes to our sins. The punishment for our sins should be death, but Jesus interceded for us on the cross, taking our punishment upon His shoulders.

"51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open." - Matthew 27:51

Who do we pray to? We pray to God, in the name of Jesus, through His Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us the God's Holy Spirit interprets out prayers and makes them presentable to God.

"26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God." - Romans 8:26-27

Jesus intercedes for us. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Can we be in any better position when we come before God on our knees in prayer?

Yolanda Adams - The Lord's Prayer
Intercession - Eric Ludy

Monday, May 15, 2017

Uphill Battle?

Every once in a while I take a picture that tells a story. It may not be the best photo but, if it speaks volumes to the heart, it's a good picture. This is one such photo for me.

Obviously, the photo is of a young lady and and an even younger man. A mother and her son perhaps? What are they doing?

They are walking uphill. More on that in a moment. The young boy is full of energy. His eyes are looking forward, looking toward some distant destination or goal. And he is running towards it!

The mother's eyes are focused on her son. She follows behind him closely, keeping him safe from danger, safe from harm. There is a little less enthusiasm in her eyes - almost a tiredness. But she is also determined . . . devoted to her son.

There is something missing in this photo though. It is something that would make this photo an even better story. There is no father is in this picture. It's just a mother and her son.

Sometimes life can throw a curve ball at us - something totally unexpected. Unforeseen circumstances can change our life's plans in an instant. So what do we do? How can we cope with the unexpected, life altering things that happen to us?

The first thing we can do is look at and appreciate the things we still have. Look at what God has given us. The mom in this picture has her son. She treasures and appreciates the gift that he is in her life.

Second, this mom has her entire future stretching out in front of her. That's what her son is looking at in this picture I think. She should be encouraged in that she gets to watch him grow into an amazing young man - strong and courageous and ready to face the world.

But the most important thing we should remember when things go bad in our lives is our faith in God. When we place our trust in Jesus we become HIs children. "I will not leave you as orphans." Those were the words Jesus spoke to His disciples. We are never alone.

We may feel lost sometimes in life. We may feel unworthy or worthless. We may even feel like a failure. But we are actually none of those things. That's just Satan pushing our buttons. We are far more valuable in the eyes of God.

"11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:11-13
A mother's loving embrace helps grows a child

The young lady in that picture is a friend of mine. I know the things she has gone through in this life. She is a fighter, wanting what is best for her child - a loving caring mom to be sure. There are many more such women in this world - moms raising kids on their own.

There is much to be learned from these amazing ladies. Lessons in courage, determination, perseverance, and love. When life changes for the worse it can be like walking into an airplane propeller. It is what we do AFTER that happens that defines us.

A Mother's Prayer - Celine Dione
I Am Second - Lauren Scruggs