Better Together


A new series based on 1 John..

Coming 2019…

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“Hello God…”


So… here’s a story for you.

Apparently, today…I spoke with God….ON THE PHONE!  I couldn’t believe it!  I wanted to ask him all a bunch of questions.  How long will I live?  When will your Son return?  Can you give me the money I asked for?  I had an incredible conversation with him.  He told me how big He was, how much money he makes and how he affects my entire life.  He told me that I needed to satisfy his needs.

Now before you go all crazy on me…  I did have a conversation with someone today who told me he was my god.  He told me how big he was in business, how important he was to my job and how I have to do exactly what he wants.  Here’s the reality… what he does isn’t all that.  In fact, it doesn’t affect me at all.

The problem was this person saw himself through the eyes of his pride rather than the eyes of God’s love.  It’s like this…  A person is born, lives and works in a small town.  They are friendly, successful and enjoy their work.  However, that same person only does work in that same small town.  They never go outside of that town.  As the town grows, so do they.  As the town buys, he becomes richer.  No matter what happens, everyone knows him and he knows everybody.  When someone from the outside comes into that town to try and do business with him, he refuses and begins to tell that person how important he is and how he is the only one who can help the newcomer in business.  He then compares himself to God and says how nothing happens without his knowledge and authority.   What he does is he only sees himself through his own eyes.  That is called pride and it is the cause of so many of our problems.

We have redefined pride to communicate our feelings towards life itself.  We say things like, “Have pride in your country” or “Take pride in your work”.  The problem is when we “take pride” in something, we communicate how good we are.  When we have pride in our country, we say to ourselves and others, “My country is so important and the best in the world”.  We emphasize “My” rather than “country”.  When we “take pride” in our work, we communicate that our efforts are what get us where we want to be.  But both of these understandings couldn’t be further from the truth.

The book of Proverbs has some good things to say about pride and how God views it.

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

“A person’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” – Proverbs 29:23

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” – Proverbs 16:18

Pride is one of those things, we have twisted.  Isn’t “funny” how we do that?  We take the things God calls bad in life and twist the definition to fit our own desires?  We do this with literally everything.  God says to Adam, “When you eat of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.”  The serpent then says to his wife, “Will you surely die?”  They focus on their desire to eat good fruit rather than God’s command and viola…we have sin.

When God tells the Israelites to leave Egypt with Moses, they do.  But when they become hungry, they focus in on their own stomachs rather than where God told them to go.  They complain about how good it was in Egypt.  How slavery wasn’t that bad.  They focused in on themselves and what they wanted rather than God’s command for them.

When Nebuchadnezzer (king of Babylon) defeats, captures and enslaves Israel, he believes that he is the greatest king to ever live.  He allows a decree to go forth to worship him and only him.  He felt he was so good at what he does that no one can touch him.  (Until God makes him lose his mind…)

Pride is no different.  God warns us that when pride (focusing on ourselves and our own abilities) enters into our life, the next thing that comes is dishonor, depression and destruction.

When we believe we are the best at what we do, we dishonor others and treat them improperly.  We communicate how good we are rather than help them at what they need.  We puff up our own ego to the detriment of the emotions of those around us.

When we believe we are the best at what we do and someone proves us wrong, we become depressed.  We go from the “drug induced’ high of pride to the “withdrawal” of depression instantaneously.

When we believe we are the best at what we do and are proven wrong, we can also enter into a destructive way of thinking.  We think to ourselves, “I am going to prove them wrong’ or we convince ourselves that they don’t know what they are talking about.  We then go after people and position in anger only to succumb to sleepless nights and people removing themselves from us.  We destroy relationships and ultimately we destroy ourselves.

Pride doesn’t build up… it breaks down.  Pride doesn’t give…it takes.  And this is the polar opposite of what God wants from us.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” – Romans 14:19

“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-17

We are called to build up, not break down.  We are called to encourage, not discourage.  We are called to speak the truth in love, which means we have the ability to share truth without sounding like we know everything.  We speak the truth because we care not because we have more knowledge.

When we build up, it benefits everyone.  When we build up, it gives to others out of love.  When we build up, we execute the exact evidence of God’s love and purpose in our lives.

As we build up, we no longer need the approval of others.  We no longer need to dwell on our past problems.  We no longer need to prove everyone else wrong.

Doesn’t that make you feel free?  When we forsake pride and embrace God’s love, we begin to love others by serving others.  When we forsake pride and embrace God’s will, He grows His church.  He displays His love through our acts of love and kindness.  God is praised when we obey His calling to build up.  God is honored when we help those who cannot help themselves.  God is worshipped when we surrender our pride and embrace His love.

Can we do that today?  Can we serve others and show them how much God loves them?  Can we forget about our denominational differences and display God’s love by serving side by side?  Can we admit that we aren’t the best and aren’t perfect and encourage someone who may be struggling with depression?  Can we finally show the world that what God has commanded is the best and what we desire is nothing in comparison?

Let’s do that today.  Let’s build each other up.  Let’s forsake pride and embrace God’s unconditional, always forgiving love.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Our disabilities, God’s provision


Have you ever felt you weren’t good enough?  Maybe it was a job you submitted an application for.  You figured, “They won’t call because I’m not good enough for them.”  What about your spouse or children?  Do they say things like, “You’re a failure” or “I can’t believe I married you”?  What about your job?  Do you get a review that appears to be more of a bashing session than one of encouragement and guidance?  Whatever it is for you, I think we’ve all been there at some point in our lives.  At some point, we don’t believe in ourselves or what we are capable of.  What if I told you that not believing in yourself or your capabilities is exactly where you need to be to succeed?  Sounds crazy?

From as long as I can remember, our society has gone out of their way to say, “You can do it” or “Don’t let anyone stop you from being happy”.  We have heard from motivational speakers that encourage us to go after things we wouldn’t ordinarily do.  We hear phrases like “What if…” or “Just imagine…”  Our minds are flooded with positive and motivational speeches.  This message has even entered the church.

You can hear preacher after preacher say things like, “God wants you to be happy” or “God doesn’t want you to be sick” or “Remember if God is love, then why would he want bad things to happen to you”.  It makes us feel good about ourselves and life.  We think it is exactly what we need to be motivated to do whatever it is we think God wants us to do.  Let me tell you that if you have heard this, it is positive motivational hogwash and is completely unbiblical.  Here is what I mean….

Someone we love has just heard they have cancer and only have about 6 months to live.  Doctors express that quality of life is better than extending someone’s life by a day or two.  We pray and pray and pray only to find out our loved one died in less than a month from original diagnosis.  It is here we begin to question what we believe.  We question whether God is a good God.  We question whether God exists.  We wonder why such bad things happen to good people.  We begin to ask ourselves life changing questions with all sorts of life changing answers.  But no matter what answer we may come up with, it’s never the one we want to hear.  So…where is the positive motivational hogwash now?

You see, our disappointment, our questioning our beliefs is not because of the situation or words that others speak to us.  Our problem is not the preacher or Scripture…it’s us.  We are the problem.  We placed our expectations on words that have no meaning.  We placed our desires onto a theoretical divine vending machine in the hopes that by pressing C4, we would get a biblical snickers or bag of Christ chips.  Instead by pressing C4, the situation we are facing explodes and the shrapnel of that vending machine cuts us to the core, giving us the opportunity to question everything we believe.

I heard it was said that the difference between expectation and reality is disappointment and depression.  This is so true.  We expect to retire from a job only to realize that we cannot so we become disappointed and depressed.  We relied on our expectation and not on our current reality.  We expect to get married and live to a ripe old age together, only to realize that our spouse isn’t who we originally thought they were, so when we become divorced, we question if “until death do us part” is just a fairy-tale.  Our expectations or dreams become the focus of our lives and when they don’t work out, we question why.

But what if I told you there was a better way?  What if you didn’t have to have the high false expectations but rather had the reality that God has the best in mind for you through your problems.  Before you make any assumptions, let me first say, that I am all for encouragement and living a positive life.  I am all for going after dreams and goals.  I am all for having a positive outlook on an impossible situation.  This doesn’t mean that I am a hopeless positive motivational speaker.  It means that I believe God has a better way for us to look at life.

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul is explaining to the church in Corinth about his “thorn” in his side.  There is much speculation as to what this “thorn” was.  Some believe his eyes were deteriorating causing him to be blind.  Others say it was fleshly temptations pressing on him.  In reality, it doesn’t make a difference what the “thorn” was.  Rather it is what the “thorn” represents that is important.

Paul begins this chapter by talking about boasting.  Boasting is a way we brag about what we’ve done.  It is riddled with self-sufficiency and pride.  The church in Corinth needed their spiritual ballooned head to be deflated, so Paul begins by telling them about impossible tasks people, he knew, had experienced.  He then goes on in verse 5 to say…

“I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weakness.”

That doesn’t sound right?  Boast about his weakness?  Paul is very specific with this word we translated as “weakness”.  This word “ἀσθένεια (as-then’-i-ah) means to bear trials and troubles.  It means that instead of boasting about who we are or what we know, Paul would rather boast about the problems that he is facing.  But why would Paul say this?  What was it that brought Paul to an understanding that his problems are what he needs?  Our answer is in verse 9, where the Lord tells him…

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

What the Lord was telling him was, “Hey don’t worry about what happens to you or around you.  I know.  All you need to concern yourself with is that what I have to offer you, my grace, is sufficient.  In fact, my power is perfectly shown in your trials and troubles.”

This declaration has become very evident to me in recent days.  Over the last few months, I have been fighting disappointment and depression on various scales.  I can’t get into too much detail, only to say that the Lord has taught me that my expectations are not his will.  I had become so enamored by things I want and desire that I temporarily forsook what God has planned for me.  I wanted one thing, but God desired another.  So what does God expect from us?

First, God desires our obedience to what he has placed before us.  In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel tells King Saul, that obedience is better than sacrifice.  King Saul was supposed to wait for the prophet to do the sacrifice.  Instead of waiting, King Saul became impatient and did the sacrifice himself.  Saul did what he wanted rather than waiting for God’s will.  The result was that King Saul lost his throne and his life, just as God had told Samuel.

Second, God desires us to be patient.  In Romans 12, we are given an outline of how to live.  One of those traits is to be patient during trials and troubles.  This is where I struggle the most.  Instead of patiently waiting for God’s will to be accomplished in my life, I would rather jump into the cold water and get used to it.  However, what I readily forget is that the cold water I want to jump into will produce hypothermia and cause my spiritual self to freeze and become useless.  I can’t do anything positive if my spiritual body is frozen.  What I had to realize is that God is warming up the water, just enough for me to jump in and survive.  It may not be a heated pool that I can relax in, but it will be the best temperature for me to be motivated to accomplish His will in my life.

Third, God desires us to become someone more.  There is something called “trial by fire”.  It is a way to purify precious metals.  The precious metal is heated up to a specific temperature as to bring the unwanted materials to the surface.  The precious metal is not harmed.  It is being purified as to be used for the master’s purpose.  The “dross” or impure material comes to the surface and then the master carefully removes the impurities to expose what is useful to him.  This is what Paul was explaining to the church in Corinth.

No matter what we go through in life, if it hurts and it’s not our fault, then take it as God is putting you into the fire to reveal His pure and perfect will in your life.  You and I are precious metals to God, therefore, we can expect problems to come our way to make us more like Him.

Sometimes, many times, we go through problems because of this purification process.  This is a life-long process.  We will only escape this process once the Lord determines it is our time to come home.  So instead of rejecting or fighting our trials and problems, embrace them, because God is using them to make us better and more useful to Him.

Paul expressed how he would boast in his weakness.  Why?  Because Paul knew he was being purified into something God wants to use.  Therefore, bring on the trials!  Just as Paul had this outlook, so should we.  When cancer is our diagnosis, rejoice in how God will use it to bring others to Him.  When we lose our jobs, rejoice because He has a plan to bring you to a new job, even when you don’t know it.  When our spouse or child reject us, rejoice because the Creator of the all things loves you so much that He sent Jesus Christ to die for you.  He accepts you for who you are.  Rejoice in that.

If we desire to become a better person, we desire a good thing.  However, if we desire to become a better person without problems, then we desire a fantasy.  We can only become better if God allows us to be purified through trials and tribulations.  We may not understand everything now, but one day, it will be as clear as the clearest day on the coastline.  The waves may come, the storm may be in the horizon, but our security is in the Rock we stand upon, Jesus Christ.

Boast not in what you can do, rather boast in what God has done during your problems.  How have you become a better person because of the problems in your life?  What has God taught you in the impossible tasks before you?   Can your story encourage someone else to stay the course?  No matter what, take heart, our disabilities are God’s provision to show His power to a lost and dying world.

God bless and encourage someone today.

From Perfection to Forgiveness


Normally, I do not do political posts, but the last year of so, I have been watching the political climate and reactions thereof.  What I have found is quite disturbing.

What happens when one politician disagrees with another?  They call each other names.

What happens when one politician wants their agenda to pass but someone else’s to lose?  They create sympathetic stories for their specific view.

What happens when a bunch of politicians get together to question someone who has been selected for a specific position?  The politicians require perfection throughout life.

Perfection.  It’s a crazy word.  We use it when we call someone a “perfectionist”, someone who needs to have everything in order perfectly, in their eyes, otherwise they cannot proceed.  Perfection, however, goes way beyond our culture of needing our books alphabetized on our shelves, or our knick-knacks perfectly lined up on the window sill.  Perfection is something we, as human beings can never achieve.

Perfection can be defined as:

  • A condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
  • Completely and totally flawless, without blemish

Here’s a question we should all ask ourselves in the mirror at night… did I live a perfect life today?

I know I didn’t.  When I get cut off on the highway, my mind and sometimes my mouth exude “words of encouragement” – NOT!  Sometimes, when my kids say or do the wrong things and I overreact to their actions or words, I remain imperfect.

Over the last few weeks, and more so today, we are seeing, before our very eyes, the hacking of political chaos.  When one side does not want a nominee, for whatever their reasoning, they require total lifetime perfection.

It is very unfortunate that we, as a country, have stooped to the level of requiring perfection from all that we disagree with, meanwhile, we do not require perfection from ourselves.  No longer can someone make mistakes, if they don’t think like the majority.  No longer can actions be problematic, if they don’t agree with the news agencies.  No longer can our words be honest, in love, without the repercussion of persecution and name calling.  It is very unfortunate, but there is someone who does not require perfection.

Long ago, a carpenter left his family business and began to recruit people to be his students.  First, he chose someone who was a political thief.  He picked someone who stole from his own people in order to make himself wealthy all the while paying the government only what they required.  He also chose a fisherman who had a way of not keeping his mouth and sometimes his actions unfiltered.  He chose two brothers who always fought and had anger management issues.  A prostitute followed him.  A woman who couldn’t hold a relationship together followed him.  In fact, he also chose a banker who would eventually betray him.

In the same light, this same man was rejected by the political leaders of is day.  They felt that their motives, their actions and their agendas were perfect and if he wouldn’t follow their ways, he couldn’t be perfect either.  The problem was this man was perfect.  The only one who ever was and the only one who will ever be.  Yet in spite of his perfection, he does not require perfection from us.

This man is Jesus.  He died so that we may live.  He is perfect.  We are not.  He chose imperfect people to accomplish His will in this world.  This is the beauty of the Gospel.  Jesus does not require our perfection, but He requires our obedience to Him.  Part of being obedient to Him is to forgive others who have wronged us.  It is not about not suffering the consequences to their actions, it’s about the position of being human beings, made in the image of God, in need of a Savior.  Forgiveness heals both the offender as well as the victim.  It allows us to free our minds and hearts to give that person another chance.

When Jesus was asked about how many times to forgive someone, here is what He said…

“I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Now that’s an odd way of answering a question but there was a reason why Jesus said it this way.  In biblical times, it was thought that if you forgave someone seven times, you were considered above reproach.  It was also understood that if that person wronged you an eighth time, they no longer were worthy of your forgiveness.  What Jesus was communicating was not to forgive a specific number of times, but to forgive unconditionally.  This means that as those who wrong us over and over again, we should forgive them over and over again.  When we do this one of three things will happen.

First, they’ll keep wronging us, we’ll keep forgiving but at some point, the relationship will fade and the two will part ways.

Second, the person wronging you will get tired of your forgiveness and will leave because their wrong will appear to have no effect on you.

Third, the person who is wronging you will stop out of guilt and will change their ways and wrong you no more.

We all want the third option, but the first two are realities as well.

Today, we are watching as Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford go before the Senate Committee to testify about Judge Kavanaugh’s actions back in High School and College.  We are watching the deformation of character from both sides, but we are not seeing acts of forgiveness.

At the same time, this should be a warning for us as well.  The sin we act upon in private, in our past, will one day surface to the top of our public lives.  Should Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford done the sinful things they both did in their former days?  No.  I feel for Dr. Ford.  But I also feel for Judge Kavanaugh.  Both are now suffering from their prior actions.  Both are trying to save their professional and personal lives by accusing and denying their actions.  The question in my mind is not whether they did those things or not.  The question in my mind is, “What about all of our public figures?  What is in their past that is questionable or rebellious that would disqualify them from their office?”

I am confident that if we were to use the same rule of judgement as we are seeing in today’s hearings, almost all of our current politicians would be disqualified from their office.  I am also confident that if our leaders were to begin showing acts of forgiveness, our country would be greater than it has ever been.

When we require perfection, we abandon forgiveness.  When we require forgiveness, we accept imperfection and embrace our commonalities rather than our criminalities.  Our country needs to be forgiven and needs to show forgiveness.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NASB)

We NEED to turn back to God.  We NEED to forgive others.  We NEED to look hard in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Was I perfect today?”  And if, like me, you can answer, “Not perfect”, then we have the opportunity to ask God for forgiveness.  And guess what…. He will.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

God is ready to forgive us.  We just need to admit our wrongs to Him.  Once we do that, He will give us what we need to forgive others.

If you and I have been forgiven by God for all that we have done, then why can’t we show that same forgiveness to others?

No one is perfect.  No one ever will be.  Let’s begin the healing process by first asking for forgiveness, then giving forgiveness to others.  God bless and let’s forgive someone today.

Better Together – Chewy Tails


IMG_0903This is Chewy.

He thinks he is bigger than he really is.  Chewy is a Chiweenie, which is a Chihuahua and Dachshund mix and pours out his unconditional love to all.  His bark is loud, his smile can be intimidating, but after you get to know him, he’s a bundle of mushy love.

Over the last 4 days, I have spent lots of time with Chewy.  As I have spent hours upon hours discovering his quirks, his fears and his love, the Lord has also given me insight into why He has brought Chewy into our family at this point in time.

For almost the last decade, my family has been the proud owner of cats, black cats to be specific.  Each of them (Shadow and Angel) have their unique character and show love in different ways.  Regardless of their individuality, the fact that they are the same species and have many similarities remains true.

Both Shadow and Angel have worked hard to be friends by tolerating each other’s quirkiness, odd behaviors and personality differences.  Now, we have added a puppy to the mix and this is where the lessons began.

When you have multiple species living under the same roof, understand, there will be some difficult times.  In our case the times have not been so bad.  The cats have had to learn that Chewy is here to stay and Chewy has to learn that cats don’t play like dogs.  What I found interesting was the comparison to the Church today.

“The Church today” is comprised of many denominational and non-denominational churches.  Yet, many times, individual churches decide to do ministry on their own, rather than with the support of other churches.

We hear excuses like, “We do things the way the Lord wants us to do it” or “What works for them doesn’t work for us” or “We’ve always done things this way.  We don’t need the advice from anyone else.”

But is “the Church” supposed to operate this way?  Are we supposed to work like an island, surrounded by water, not being involved with the main land?  No matter how we look at “the Church”, we must understand that we are comprised of many different peoples, from many different languages, having many different cultures, with many different secondary beliefs.  Unfortunately, many times, it is the secondary beliefs that divide us rather than unite us.  Here is what I mean….

Shadow, Angel and now Chewy are unique in their own way.  However, both cats and dog have a single and clear goal…to please their Daddy.  Why?  I chose them.  None of them chose me.  In Shadow’s case, she was a stray that we had compassion on.  We decided to woo her until she trusted us and then when she desired to come in the house, we invited her in.  Angel was found under a car.  No one knows how she got there, but she was found and no one wanted her because she is completely black.  I took her home, comforted her and cared for her.  We could have sent her to a kennel for adoption, but instead made a conscience decision to keep her.  Finally, I was desiring a dog, so I went out and looked at many different kinds of dogs.  Ultimately, we chose Chewy and now he is a part of our family.  The same is true for us as “the Church”.

First, regardless of our denominational or non-denominational ties, God chose us.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” – Ephesians 1:4 (NIV)

Do you realize that God chose you, BEFORE WE EVEN EXISTED?  How awesome is that?!  The Creator of all things made a conscience decision to choose you and I.  And to boot, he did that even before He created everything.  If that doesn’t get you excited, maybe the next point will.

Second, there are no denominations in heaven.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” – Revelation 7:9 (NIV)

GASP! No mention of denominations or individual churches.  Unbelievable!  One day, all will be revealed and our secondary issues and beliefs won’t matter anymore.  Whether we believe in infant baptism or full emersion, whether pre-tribulation, post-tribulation or a-millennialism, it won’t matter.  Whether we believe in speaking in tongues or not, it won’t matter.  All of these secondary beliefs, which divide us, won’t matter one day.  All that will matter is that we will be with our Daddy, together, worshipping Him, doing His will.  We won’t care if we are Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, Calvinist, Methodist or any other denomination you can think of.  All nations, all tribes, all languages will be represented and what’s most exciting???  No one will be able to count us!  Not only has God chosen us, but He chose so many of us, that no one can count how many He chose.

If we can look beyond our criticism, our judgements of denominations and churches and focus on the reason why God leaves us here after becoming Christians, maybe, just maybe, we can join forces and change the world for the Kingdom.

Just like Shadow, Angel and Chewy have to work together to please their Daddy, so too, we must all work together to bring the Gospel to the nations.  Our purpose is clear, to share the Gospel, by sharing our lives with others, serving others (even when they don’t appreciate it) and leading them to the Cross.

Imagine what the world would look like if we decided to put away our differences, and focus on our mission.  We need to be that positive influence on the world today.  There are too many divisions, too many differences, too many unforgiving people.  This is our time to show the world, how Jesus loves them.  This is our time to show the world that people from every nation, language and tribe can work together and worship together for the Kingdom’s purpose of leading others to Christ.

We can be better together.  Let’s work out our differences and change the world in the process.

God bless and encourage someone today.