Creator of the Eclipse


There is something about watching the wonders of the heavens that makes mankind realize how small we really are.

Today, across the United States, we had the extreme privilege of watching a solar eclipse.  For some it was a glimpse of how God has placed order on the universe.  For others, it was a totality of awe and wonder.  No matter how we may have experienced this event, one thing is for sure, there is order to our universe.

I remember in 1979 when I first experienced what a solar eclipse was like.  Our teacher had each of us create a shoebox pinhole viewer.  We watched as the bright small dot, became encompassed by the darkness of the moon.  It wasn’t a total eclipse but it began my interest and love of nature and the heavens.

As I watched today, I thought of Psalm 8.  As a nation, we looked up to the heavens and applauded in amazement as God’s creation did exactly what it was commanded to do on this very day.  No longer did we ask about racism.  No longer did we fear the terrorist.  No longer did we wonder what the Republican or Democrat was standing for.  No longer did we focus on our fears, anxieties or problems.  We focused on God’s creation, thereby focusing our attention on what He was doing at that very moment.

When we focus on our problems, we take our eyes off of the heavens.  When we focus on our anxieties, we no longer look up and wonder what God is doing.  When we focus on what God is doing, we forget about our problems.  When we focus on God and His creation, we realize that our problems are a mere flash of existence that doesn’t even make a dent in the view of eternity.

For 2 minutes today, each of us made a conscience decision to look up to the heavens, forget about our problems and re-focus our attention to the Creator of the Eclipse.  Read Psalm 8 and exclaim, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

God bless and encourage someone today.

*Psalm 8[a]

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name(A) in all the earth!

You have set your glory(B)
in the heavens.(C)
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold(D) against your enemies,
to silence the foe(E) and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,(F)
the work of your fingers,(G)
the moon and the stars,(H)
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c](I)

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e](J)
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.(K)
You made them rulers(L) over the works of your hands;(M)
you put everything under their[g] feet:(N)
all flocks and herds,(O)
and the animals of the wild,(P)
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,(Q)
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!(R)

*Taken from the NIV

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The Seed That Requires Action (Part 1)


I have a question for you….

What is the responsibility of Christians in its simplest form?

My reason for asking is this question has been a re-occurring theme in conversations I have had, thoughts overflowing my mind, in my personal devotion and when I am preparing my next sermon.  No matter how many hours pass in the day, the question of our responsibility as Christians in its simplest form comes and floods my mind of situations, people and circumstances, analyzing my words and actions to see if they are glorifying my Savior.  So what is your answer to this question?

What if I told you that our basic actions are few but can be effective?  Our actions are important; in fact they are critical in spreading the Gospel.  However, spreading the Gospel is only one part of what we are supposed to do.  The actions we have surrounding the Gospel is just as critical in effectively sharing what Christ has done in our lives.  You may even say that our actions are the pre-cursor to giving us the opportunity to share the Gospel.  But how is this expressed in Scripture?  There is a lot here and how can we simplify it to allow for easier understanding?  The answer is in farming.

The beginning of Matthew 13 is a story that Jesus told his disciples concerning the Gospel….

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” – Matthew 13:3-9 (NASB)

The first thing to notice here is there is a “sower”.  In the most simplest of terms, a sower plants seeds.  This is the person who walks in the field that has been tilled and prepared for planting.  They usually have a large satchel with thousands of seeds.  As they walk up and down the tilled field, they grab a handful of seeds and scatter the seeds all over the ground.  All they do is ensure that all of the seed they are given is distributed evenly across the field.  Did the sower till the field?  Nope.  Did the sower prepare the field for planting?  Nope.  All the sower is responsible for is planting.  Planting the Gospel is our responsibility.  Our action is to share what God did through Jesus Christ on the cross.  We are told to throw the Gospel out into the field that God has prepared.  It is only God who can make someone ready to hear the Gospel.  It is only God who can till the hearts and minds of people.  Our part is to plant the Gospel seed.

Another area that we get caught up in is our responsibility to ensure the Gospel is told at the right time.  We concern ourselves with the quality of sharing, the purpose of sharing and the reasons for sharing the Gospel.  Many times, we worry over lives that we have no control over.  We concern ourselves with where the seed was planted and try to make it grow.  Unfortunately, we sin by worrying about these things.  Instead look at what happens next in the story.  The seed fell on four places:

  1. Seed that fell by the wayside.
  2. Seed that fell by the stony places.
  3. Seed that fell among thorns.
  4. Seed that fell on good ground.

Did you see that?  Most of the seed didn’t fall on good ground.  Most of the seed fell on ground that was not suited for growing plants.  The sower didn’t concern himself with where, how and why.  He simply did as his Master commanded, he planted the seeds.  I know this is a matter of opinion, but I think Jesus shared this parable this way to show us how we need not be concerned about who, what, where, why and how.  We only need to concern ourselves with planting of seeds.  We do not know what land (person) God has prepared.  We do not know what God is doing in their life or how He is working.  We only are told to plant the seed of the Gospel.

As Christians, we need to stop getting caught up in the minute details of how to share the Gospel.  There have been many methods planned by good theologians that have worked in the lives of people.  You and I can read into infinitum on how to deliver the Gospel message.  However, we have to understand fully, it is only God who prepares their hearts.  We do not.  The Gospel is the seed we plant.  Our actions are to plant, not to grow or force growth.

The last, and very important thought, I want to share is, the quality of the plant.  Notice I didn’t say the quality of the seed.  The seed (the Gospel) is already at the highest quality.  The plant, however, has different variations of quality.  Some of the plants yielded a hundredfold.  Some yielded sixtyfold and some yielded only thirtyfold.  Why would Jesus share this information with his disciples?  Why not stop and just say that the plant yielded fruit?  Why such detail?

I believe that when Jesus shared every parable or story, he did it with the details in mind.  He purposely went out of His way to give us what we need to hear.  I believe that this detail is essential in understanding our role with planting the seed of the Gospel.

Notice the varied amounts of yield.  Some yielded an incredible crop, some a medium crop and some a small crop.  All yielded a crop, just not all yield the same amount.  Sometimes, when we see our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we judge their crop.  We assume they are being ineffective if they don’t bear the crop like we do.  We forget that it is the Gospel that bears fruit.  It is the Gospel that grows.

“…the gospel which has come to you, just as [h]in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and [i]increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and [j]understood the grace of God in truth…” – Colossians 1:6 (NASB)

Just as we cannot force growth in the ground of our tomato plants, we cannot force growth in the lives of our brothers and sisters.  We have to freely allow the Gospel to grow.  We have to freely allow the Gospel to produce the fruit necessary in their lives.  Not any one of us is identically alike in this world, so we shouldn’t think we are all alike in the next.  Our lives are individually precious to God.  He has created us with purpose and meaning.  All we need to do is sow the seed of the Gospel  on the ground that God has tilled and made ready.

However, this is only our first action.  There are two more actions we need to take.  Unfortunately, that will have to wait until next time……

God bless and encourage someone today.

A Purpose in Remembrance


As I sit and ponder the various thoughts that flood my mind, I wonder how many of us are good at remembering things.  Do you remember the good times?  How about the bad times?  Do you remember your wedding day or the day you met your spouse?  Did you just remember the time your son or daughter scored that goal or hit that home run?  What is it that you remembered?  How many years have passed since that memory?  Did Facebook give you a reminder of a memory triggering an emotional reaction?

No matter how you seem to remember things, I believe our memories are a gift from God.  They are the tool in which He uses to remind us of His goodness, His kindness and His love for us.  It also reminds us of His sovereignty, His power and His sacrifice.  Our memories can remind us of where we came from, what molded us into who we are today.  However, if our memories go out of control, they can haunt us, trap us and even enslave us, paralyzing us into action and causing us pain and suffering.

God created memories.  Throughout Scripture, we read of God telling his people to remember through feasts, festivals and sacrifices.  Time and time again, we read about “Remember the Sabbath” in Exodus 20 and “Remember Lot’s wife”, in Luke 17.  Time and time again, we are to remember who God is and what He has done, remember where we came from and remember our purpose and calling in this life.

That is why we place so much emphasis on remembering.  The pictures we hang on our walls remind us of times of joy.  Videos remind us of times past and inflict various emotions.  We mourn for those who suffer from memory loss.  We feel for those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  At funerals we remember the good times with our past loved ones.  At birthday celebrations we remember the joy of childbirth.  We go out of way to ensure that we never forget.

In my last post, I mentioned that Colossians is a book of remembrance.  Contained within its pages are calls to remember where we came from, Who saved us, what our calling is and who is within our family.  During my study, I was reminded of another piece of Scripture that is chock full of memories, Exodus 20.

Most of us know that Exodus 20 contains the 10 Commandments.  The do’s and don’ts of Jew and Christian alike.  However, beyond the do’s and don’ts that we have all been taught, is the complexity of explaining a purpose in remembrance.  These do not simply bark orders to follow, but a calling to remember one thing, “Remember Who.”

Exodus 20 starts off like this…

“Then God spoke all these words, saying,”

First, God wants us to remember, it is He Who is speaking.  He is the one and only true God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth that is talking with them.  He is the “I AM” who is telling them about these commands.  It is not Moses or Aaron.  He is God.

In verse 2 we then read:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Second, we are to remember Who saved us.  He is the Lord your God, not the Lord their God.  God is our God.  He is our Creator.  He is our Savior.  He is and always will be the “Lord your God”.  So why is this so important?

He reminds Israel what He did for them, “…who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  In Israel’s minds, it was Moses who brought them out of Egypt.  They grimaced and groaned to Moses and Aaron about how good they had it in Egypt.  However, what they forgot about was the harsh slavery, the horrific oppression they were under and their crying out to God for freedom.  They remembered the food but forgot Who provided for them.

Isn’t that just like us?  Don’t we remember the wrong things?  We all have a tendency to remember the circumstance rather than the Creator.  We remember what we think is good and forget the good that God has done for us.  We forget that it was God who saved us from our slavery to sin.  We forget that it was God who sent His Son to die for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.  We forget that God promised us that Christ will return and save us from this dying and sinful world.  Simply put, we don’t remember the right things.  When our memories focus on things, other than God Himself, we fall into sin.  We fall into a thought process of pride and selfishness which causes us to reject God and His purpose for us.

Lastly, God’s expectation of this reality is our reaction to remembering Who He is.  Let me clarify this a bit.  Here is how I like to read the rest of this passage….

Vs 3 – As you remember Who saved you, you shall not have any other gods before Me.

Vs 4 – As you remember that I saved you from slavery, you shall not make for yourself any likeness of anything that will replace Me.

Vs 7 – As you remember that I protected you from the plagues of Egypt, you shall not take My name in vain.

Vs 8 – As you remember that I rested on the 7th day, so shall you.

Vs 12 – As you remember that I am your Father, honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land that I am giving to you.

Vs 13 – As you remember that I created you, therefore, do not murder.

Vs 14 – As you remember that I allowed Israel to increase in Egypt, you shall not commit adultery.

Vs 15 – As you remember that I provided for you in Egypt, you shall not steal.

Vs 16 – As you remember that Moses was a witness to your cry in Egypt and I heard you and freed you, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Vs 17 – As you remember that I give you what you need and desire, you shall not covet any of your neighbor’s belongings or wife.

We have a purpose in remembering.  Our ability to remember should focus us on the purpose that God has for us.  In all circumstances we need to remember Who freed us from the bondage of sin, who freed us from the hand of slavery and in remembering this, our actions should match our memories.

If our memories lead us to strife, anguish and anxiety, then our memories do not have the right focus.  Instead of saying, “Oh I remember the pain…”, say, “I remember how God sustained me through the pain….”  If our focus is on remembering the circumstance then our reaction is strife, anger and anxiety.  If our focus is on remembering who God is and what He has done for us, then our reaction will be to worship and glorify Him.

There is a purpose in our remembering.  Remembering should lead us to worship.  Remembering should lead us to a desire to learn more about Him.  Remembering should bring us to the point where we bow down, cry out to Him and ask Him what His purposes for our lives are.  Remembering is our way of refocusing on the One who saved us and freed us from the bondage of sin.

How are you remembering the Lord today?  What did He do to sustain you, lead you or save you from your past?  If you can’t think of a time where God saved you, then re-evaluate your life and ask God to show Himself to you.  He has freed you through Jesus Christ.  You are free because He made you free.

May God remind you of how He is working in your life and share that with someone who may be struggling.  God bless and encourage someone today.

Driving, Dopiness and Diapers – The Greatest Life Series Part 4


There is an old Jewish saying that goes something like this, “Man makes his plans and God laughs”.  Many times our lives feel like this.  We create our short and long term plans.  What will we do in five years?  What about ten years?  How many children will we have?  Where do we want to live?  What will we do when we retire?  Will we be able to retire?  We dream, plan and purpose ourselves toward whatever goals we have for ourselves and our families.

When I was younger, I watched a television show called “The A-Team”.  It was a program of wrongly accused, on-the-run military convicts who fought for the side of good, while trying to discover why they were framed for their crimes.  The leader, Hannibal Smith, made the plans for his team in each episode.  In almost every episode, when his plans worked, he lit a cigar, smiled and said, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  Decidedly, when our plans work out to our benefit, we light our figurate cigar, smile, pat ourselves on the back and say, “I love it when my plan works out.”  But what about those who make plans and it doesn’t work out for them?

This past year has been one gigantic roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs.  Some have been fun, while others not so much.  I have experienced the gamut from exhilarating joy to unspeakable sorrow.  If ever there was a year to make me think and reflect on life, this was that year.

Over the past year, I had been making plans for various things.  I desired to start planning to vacation with my wife for a couple of days in Bermuda for our 20th wedding anniversary next year.  I also had begun making plans on what will happen when I retire.  How would we live?  Where would we live?  How would this affect our boys?  The plans I was making were simple, to live our lives quietly doing the things we want to do while living a relaxed life.  Sounds good, right?  Well, God decided to laugh at my plans.

This year was a time of bewilderment, excitement and fear.  Bewilderment because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Excitement because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Fear because my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  Why would God allow this?  What about my plans for retirement?  How about my plans for our 20th anniversary?  How would this fit together?  It seemed all of my plans had just been whisked away, erased from the “book of my future”.

You see, my family is what some would call “older”.  My eldest, is sixteen and is a junior in high school.  He has been asking me when he will be taking his driving permit test.  He is eager to get out there and discover what the world is like.  (Very much like me when I was his age.)  To him, it doesn’t matter if we have the budget for another car, he just wants to drive so that he will “be free” from being in the house all the time.

My 2nd child is eleven getting ready to enter junior high school.  He is discovering the joys of being involved in his school.  At the same time, he also does things that boggle the human mind.  His mind is being pulled in many directions so he has a tendency to “forget” his chores or homework.  Things we tell him will be forgotten almost instantaneously.  What is ironic about this is that his friends are the exact same way.  It’s like aliens came down, sucked out all the gray matter between their ears and placed an auto erase function for when a parent speaks.  I call this the “dopey” stage of life.

With all of this going on, God decided it was time for another child to enter our world.  We had found out last year that my wife was expecting our 3rd child.  I had noticed that my wife had a bizarre craving, lemons.  She had always loved making lemon water, but this time was different.  One evening, she had cut a lemon in half and started to enjoy the juices directly from the fruit.  This automatically triggered a question because she had this same behavior when she was pregnant with our eldest son.  A few nights later, at 4:oo A.M., my wife took a pregnancy test and found out she was pregnant.

This wasn’t in our plans.  We had our two boys and life was going well for us.  Now what was going to happen?  (Isn’t that a funny question?  We are raising 2 boys and yet, I asked myself this very question.  It’s not like I don’t know how to change a diaper…)  Not only were we dealing with the challenges of being a parent of a teenager and the dopiness of a pre-teen, but now, we were going to lose sleep and have to deal with this all over again.  On March 13, 2014, our third son was born.  Let the diaper changing begin…..again!

With all of this happening at once, my mindset wasn’t quite right.  I had looked at my present and based on a future that had not occurred yet.  My past was set, my present known and my future a complete mystery.  This placed in me a very uncomfortable feeling.  For those that know me personally, they know that I like control.  I love the rush of planning and executing those plans.  The exhilaration of seeing my plans coming to fruition cannot be completely explained in words.  I am a control freak.  I despise the unknown, especially the unknown future.

My mind had become not only confused but anxiety ridden.  “I’m a lot older than when the other two were born.  How are we going to survive this?  How are we going to be able to afford the diapers and formula?”  These questions riddled my mind and boggled my senses.  I had allowed my fears and anxiety to overtake the realization that we had done this twice before.  This was familiar ground.  Why was I so confused and anxious?  The answer was simple.  I allowed the sin called “pride” into my life.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (NASB)

1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world.” (NIV)

Little did I realize that pride had snuck its way into my life and the trail of destruction it brings was coming.  The questions I had raised were not real.  I had looked at my circumstances, my dreams and goals and decided that life was chaotic and order-less.  Because pride entered my mind, my body and spirit followed.  I let my devotions and prayer time lack.  I concentrated on my fears rather than my Father.

As fear and anxiety was trying to control me, I was reminded of these two passages which clearly show that God is in control and knows what He is doing:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

“’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11

Was God going to let me down?  No.  Was God going to forget me?  Certainly not.  Was God going to supply all my needs as He sees them?  Absolutely and a resounding yes.  The proof of this is what happened in the months to come before my wife gave birth.

As we had decided not to have any more children, we had gotten rid of everything.  Crib, gone.  Clothes, donated.  Toys, trash.  We thought to ourselves, we don’t need these anymore so why keep them.  The only item that we did not get rid of was a stroller that we had bought when my eldest son was born.  Again, fear and pride tried to take over.  This time, I refused them access to my life.  God was in control and knows what He is doing.

Before my wife went into labor, she was surprised with a baby shower.  This was the first time she was actually surprised.  (Every other time, she figured things out.)  Out of that party, all our needs were met.  We were supplied with diapers, formula, clothes and any other baby item you can think of.  In fact, we were overwhelmed with the assortment of baby items we were given.

It has been nine months since Nathan was born and all of our needs continue to be met.  Formula and diapers have been fully paid for.  God is so good to us and He showed us that time does not matter for Him.  When He says He is going to do something great, He does it and overflows our life cup with His blessings.

Our lives are not our own.  We set goals, dream of our future, but ultimately God is in control and what His plans are for us are better than the ones we create.  To have our “greatest life”, we need to submit to His authority, ask for His goals for us and live the lives He has determined in advance for us to live.  His plans are there to enhance our lives, not hurt them.  His goal is to share His Son with the world.  What is better than watching someone come to the realization that they are a sinner, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?  The greater the sinner, the greater the worshipper once saved!

Don’t do what I did.  Learn from my mistakes and errors.  Pride led me to be a control freak which led me to fear and anxiety.  Salvation led me to the cross which led me to eternal life, joy and peace.  As a sinner saved by Jesus Christ, I am still prone to allow pride to take over.  However, our minds are renewed by reading Scripture and spending time with our God and Father.  This then will lead us to be able to say to pride, “Away from me Satan.”

Concentrate on the cross and life will be filled with joy and happiness even within the trials and tribulations.  This life is temporary and short.  Why waste our time worrying about the future?  Let’s all set our eyes on Christ and what He has done.  His work is eternal, ours temporal.  His promises are right and true.  Our words are filled with sin and pride.  When we focus on what Christ has done and what He has planned for us, we will forsake our own thoughts, goals and dreams and take His on.  Once we do that, life becomes an adventure instead of a burden.  Make a decision today not to worry about “Driving, Dopiness and Diapers”.  Allow your thinking to focus on our “Daddy” who loves and cares for us, even when we decide to sin.  He knows what He is doing.  He did create the entire universe.  I think He has a handle on our problems.

God bless and encourage someone today.

What is Your Greatest Victory? – Greatest Life Series Pt. 3


Sounds like an odd question, doesn’t it?  Most times, when we look at the term “victory”, we equate it to war.  During WWII, on May 8, 1945, the Allies declared victory over the Nazi regime and declared that day to be known as VE Day.

However, as I ask this question, what is your greatest victory, I am not asking if you served in the military and had victories over the physical enemy.  I am asking, what is your greatest victory, in reference to the internal battles and struggles you and I face every day.

How many times have you attempted to overcome something in your life that is controlling?  For some it is reoccurring sinful behavior.  For others it may be eating based purely on emotion.  Yet for some it may be fighting a depression battle inside you.  No matter the internal struggle, we all face some sort of daily battle that we need to overcome.

One day, I was looking in the mirror and didn’t like what I was seeing.  I saw a person that didn’t look anything like I remember.  In my younger days, I was thin, physically fit and had a risk-taking attitude.  Now, I saw an overweight, out of shape (other than round) and defeated man.  No more pep in my step.  No risk taking.  I had become exactly what I swore I wouldn’t become.

As time went by, depression set in and my walk with the Lord suffered, greatly.  I stopped reading and seeking out the Lord daily.  I ate over 3,000 calories a day and most of it was junk.  No vegetables or fruits for weeks at a time.  This cycle continued for some time.  My old sinful behavior began to creep back into my life.  Now I really hated what I had become.

My wife and kids could see the changes.  Regularly, I would be asked if I was alright.  My answer was always “yes” but internally I wanted to scream, “Hell no!  I’m not okay!  Leave me to be alone!!!!”  One evening, my wife asked me if the gym at work was open.  I told her yes and then she said, “You were happier when you were exercising.  Go to the gym at work and start.”  I was very hesitant.  We had a new baby in the house and we weren’t sleeping.  She continued to gently remind me of how I was when we were younger when I was weight lifting.

I didn’t know what to do.  I knew I needed to do something.  One night, my youngest son looked at me with his big beautiful eyes, smiled and cooed at me.  As I looked into his eyes, I saw life.  Not just him being alive, but real life.  Bright eyed, risk taking and eternal life eyes.  His eyes told me a story that I had forgotten.  Children are risk takers.  They don’t care what others think.  They’ll ask, “Hey why are you so fat?”  Mainly out of curiosity, but we correct them because we feel it’s rude to ask that.

When I was young, I loved climbing.  I would climb garage roofs, high fences and trees.  At around 5 years old, I had climbed one of the trees in front of our apartment.  The top of the tree was higher than the two-story complex.  (I only know that because I wanted to see over the buildings and climbed to the top).  One afternoon, my dad came home from work.  I saw him pull up and as he started to walk to the door, I shouted out, “Hi dad!”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“Up here.  Look”, I exclaimed.

As my father looked up all he could see was my little hand sticking out, waving at him.  Later he told me how scared he was that I was going to slip off and plummet violently to my death.  However, for me, this was normal.  I had done this several times before.  Even on windy days, I climbed to the top and swayed along with the tree.

This reminder that came from my baby boy’s eyes, allowed the voice of God to ask me a simple question, “Are you happy?”  Immediately, I answered, “No.”  Then I heard, “Then give up trying and start being mine again.”  A profound reminder that I wasn’t my own.  Jesus Christ had purchased my life with a price, his life.

I made a conscience decision that night to change.  I wasn’t going to try and become someone else.  I wanted to be me, the one who God designed with His own hands.  For too long was I trying to become someone I am not meant to be.

Since then, changes have been made to accommodate a renewed life.  Exercise, daily prayer and Scripture reading are now part of my regular routine.  Do I still miss a day here or there?  Sure.  But instead of allowing that to bring depression back into my life, I learn from it and make the necessary changes.

Was I victorious?  Some may say I was, but I believe that the victory doesn’t belong to me.  I have learned that the battle I face is not mine, yet I still face it.  So what are we to do?

Psalm 44:5-7

Through you we push back our enemies;

Through your name we trample our foes.

I put no trust in my bow,

my sword does not give me victory;

But you give us victory over our enemies,

you put our adversaries to shame.

This psalm shows us exactly what we are to do in the various battles we face.  First, we act as God leads.  If He tells us to do something, we do it.  Second, we go into situations with the full understanding and acceptance that He is battling for us, even though we are doing the work.  We need not struggle in our battles.  Our battles are fought by the Creator of the Universe, God Himself!  Third, we are not to take pride in our earthly abilities.  We are not to trust any device or skill.  We may be good at what we do, but He gave us that ability.  We didn’t earn it.  He gave it.  Lastly, victory is right around the corner and when it happens, you will see God overcome.

Too many times, did I try to be victorious over things that I could not control.  Too many times, did I promise not to do what I should not, only to fall flat on my face.  Too many times, did I work and work and work only to find my abilities were insufficient to overcome the surrounding circumstances.  For too long, did I think, “I can do this” only to realize that I can’t.

As Christians in the United States, we are told that we can do anything.  We can’t.  We are taught to go after our dreams and goals and they will succeed, yet to find only disappointment and depression knocking at our door.

Don’t be upset with this concept.  It goes against everything that I heard growing up.  I even find myself telling my boys, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”  Unfortunately, this is not true.  Many times we hear the following bible verse:

”I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

We equate this verse many times to success in this life.  But what is the real context here?

Paul is thanking the Philippian church for their gifts to his ministry.  He mentions that he has lived with “plenty” and “in want”.  Paul saw times of physical wealth and times of poverty.  He knew what both were like.  In this context, he states that he can do all things through Christ.  This means that no matter the situation, whether good or bad, we can handle it through Christ.

I want to be sure that you are encouraged.  Remember when I spoke about all the struggles we face daily and how when we act to change them, we face depression and disappointment many times?  Well, if we are in God’s will for our lives, no matter the circumstance, He will give us what we need to get through it.  He will be the victor and we will benefit from His victories.

You and I are His.  John 10:29 says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  Isn’t that reassuring?  Because you and I are God’s no circumstance, no person, no spiritual being can take us away from God.  We are special because God says we are.  Our salvation is secure in Him.

Our greatest victory really isn’t ours.  It is God’s.  So to answer the original question “What is your greatest victory?”  My answer would be this, “My greatest victory doesn’t matter.  I benefit from the One who is the victor in every situation and circumstance.  God is my victor.”

God bless and encourage someone today.

 

What is Your Greatest Passion? – Greatest Life Series Pt. 2


When you think of the word “passion”, what do you think of?  Do you think about the movie where two people have a “passionate moment”?  What about business?  Have you ever heard of someone pursuing their “passion” and being successful?  Now think of those who are in the news yelling and screaming about change.  Aren’t they described as being “passionate”?  In my opinion, the word “passion” is grossly overused and totally misunderstood.

Recently, I was speaking with someone regarding a situation where they upset me.  As loving as I could muster, at that time, I asked the individual several questions, asking them to explain their actions.  Their response to me was, “I can hear your passion.”  After think about this for a moment, I thought to myself, “This isn’t passion.  This is being pissed.”   If it was “passion”, my strong desire would have led me to do something that I would probably regret.  Luckily for everyone involved, we were able to come to an agreement that we would never agree.

The term “passion” is used for so many things.  When someone voices their anger, we call it passion.  When someone pursues their dreams, we call it passion.  When someone is in “love” or “lust”, we call that passion.

So what is passion?  In the simplest of terms, passion is an overwhelming desire that leads one to action.  This could be negative or positive action, but in all cases, the overwhelming desire leads to action.  What is your greatest passion?  What are you so excited about that it led you to action?  Not just saying words, but actual action?

In Scripture, we see a verse that so many people in our culture have become familiar with…

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.  That whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

Have you ever thought about this in detail?  Have you ever considered its implications?  If not, let me share some quick thoughts.

First, this verse says that “God so loved the world…”  In the Greek, the word “loved” translated from the word “agapos”.  We get the term “agape” or “unconditional” from this word.  It is a form of decided unconditional love.

Second, what did this “agape” love trigger?  “…that He gave His only Son.”  Did you catch it?  The God of the all creation unconditionally loved us so much that it led Him to action, to send His only Son.  God was so passionate about us, that it led him to act accordingly.  What’s even more mind blowing is this verse:

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from my Father.” – John 10:17-18

Isn’t that amazing?  After John wrote how much God passionately loved the world, Jesus confirms this with stating, “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  Jesus was so obedient to the Father, that He too passionately loved the world.  So much so, that He gave His life up for us.

Think of it this way.  God (Father) passionately loved us so much that He gave His Son (Jesus).  Jesus passionately loved the Father and the world that He gave His life up by his own willingness.  He wasn’t surprised to see Judas and the soldiers when they came for Him.  It wasn’t unexpected when they beat Him and cursed at Him.  He wasn’t surprised or shocked when He hung on the cross and suffered.  In fact, it was Jesus who asked the Father to forgive us, because we didn’t realize what we were doing.  Jesus was passionately in love with you and I.  His love led Him to action.

So, what is your greatest passion?

Maybe, you love your career so much that you work as much as you can.  Is it possibly your kids or spouse?  You desire to spend as much time with them that even your work schedule revolves around them?

Whatever, your “passion” is, may I suggest that if you are not passionate about Jesus Christ, you are not living your “greatest life”?  We all have dreams and goals.  We all want to achieve the best for our families.  We all desire to be the best, but without Christ, our lives won’t be the greatest they can be.

As I stated earlier, Jesus was so passionately in love with the Father and us, that He gave His life for us.  It is because of Christ and Christ alone, that we can go to the Father and worship.  It is because of Christ alone, that we can pray with confidence.

We call the time surrounding Easter, “The Passion of Christ”.  This proves that our understanding of what passion is, is correct at times.  Those who termed that time of the year understood that His love for us was so great, so real, it led Him to take action.

We didn’t deserve His passionate love and still don’t.  Yet, Christ in all His understanding decided to love us with action.  So what should our response be?

I don’t know about you, but for me, our response is logical.  We should respond to Christ by accepting His free gift of eternal life.  Then once we do that, He places a “passion” in us to serve the Father.  That “inserted free passion” allows us show the love of Christ to others through action.

“Faith without works, is dead.” – James 2:17

Are we acting in a way that shows the passionate love of Christ?  Do we say things that show others how passionately in love He is with them?  When we take this perspective of Christ’s passion for us, we see the world differently.  We see what others can be in Christ, rather than who they are.  We act in love toward others, caring for them in every way.  Not just those we like, but also to those who hate us.

Living your greatest life, must include the passion of Christ.  Living your greatest life must include loving others like Christ loves us.  Living your greatest life must include a living, breathing, action packed life that displays the supernatural change that only God can do through Christ.  Live your greatest life and make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior.  He passionately loves you.  What’s your action toward love going to be?

From the Depths


As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  It was then he began to remember happier times.

Six years earlier, Ron and his wife, Barbara, had been surprised by the news that she was pregnant.  Although the child was unplanned by them, they understood God had bigger plans for this child.  They began to adjust their lives anticipating the arrival of their little baby.  Ron worked feverishly to ensure that most of the necessary construction on his house was completed, while Barbara picked out colors and cribs.

After the arrival of their baby boy, things went well for them.  He began to grow as most children do, making up words, playing with their toys and learning to say, “No.”  For the first five years of his life, David appeared to develop normally.  It wasn’t until the elementary school called indicating that David failed a hearing test.

David had experienced ear infections for most of his life.  Sometimes medication didn’t work, sometimes it did.  In all cases, it appeared that he was healed every time.  There were no “red flags’ that entered the mind of Ron or Barbara.  Now their biggest fear became a reality.  David had a tumor that needed to be removed, otherwise he could die.

The doctor called it cholesteatoma tumor, a non-cancerous tumor inside the ear that eats away at bones and cartilage.  Normally, it wasn’t fatal, but in David’s case, they feared that due to the size of the tumor, it would begin to eat at the base of the skull.  It was the worst news they had ever heard.  Never did either of them understand how or why this happened.  The doctor speculated David may have been born with it, while another possibility was one of his earlier infections created the tumor.  In either case, no one knew how or where this tumor came from.

Ron had sat with his son in the waiting room of the hospital.  He watched his son play with various toys as if there was nothing wrong.  The anesthesiologist entered the room with a smile on his face.  He carried a small cup of clear liquid and called David over to him.  David gladly took the drink and within minutes began to feel sleepy.  Ron and Barbara knew the time had come for doctors to attempt to remove the tumor.

Ron dressed in the suit provided by the hospital.  Dressed in white from head to toe, Ron didn’t cry.  In his mind, he didn’t have time for that.  This time was for David.  His son needed him more than ever.  Fully dressed, Ron picked up his son and carried him down the hallway.  As Ron looked back, he could see Barbara place her head on her mother’s shoulder and cry like the world was lost.  Not being able to bear the sight, Ron turned his head and followed the nurse.

They approached a small room, where every electronic contraption could be found.  Large lights were overhead, a heart rate monitor was to his right and the operating table was straight ahead.  Behind the table was where the anesthesiologist stood waiting for David to ensure he was fully asleep.  Looking around, the doctor stood there encouraging Ron with a smile as if to indicate that all would be okay.  Ron doubting the situation wanted to run with his son in his arms, but knew that wouldn’t be the best decision.  David had this foreign tumor and it needed to be removed.

Ron carefully placed David on the table before him.  The doctor placed a mask on David’s face and asked Ron to leave.  Ron leaned over his son, kissed his head and whispered, “Don’t worry, everything will be alright.  Jesus is with you.”  It was then that faith turned into a reality.  Did Ron really believe this?  Was what he read really true?  Was God really with his son through this?  Ron lifted his head, nodded at the doctor to say, “He is in your hands now”, turned and walked away.

The poor nurse assigned to escort Ron back to the waiting area, placed her hand on his back and said, “Everything will be okay.  Your son is in the best hands.”  Not desiring to listen to anyone or hear any words of encouragement, Ron just turned to the nurse and crudely stated, “Please be quiet.  I don’t want to talk with you right now.”  The nurse, having wisdom, just smiled and continued the silent walk back to the waiting area.

After checking on his wife, Ron decided it was time for him to get some air.  He told Barbara that he was going outside.  Barbara didn’t acknowledge Ron, but Ron understood that she heard him but didn’t care because her baby boy was undergoing surgery.  Ron slowly turned toward the door and walked outside picking up his cell phone.

As Ron stood in the sun he decided to call one of his friends, Bobby.  Bobby had helped Ron understand many different situations in life.  Bobby was a temporary pastor at his church and had walked with him through the process, thus far.  Now Ron needed to work through this so Bobby was his best choice.  The phone rang and Ron heard the comforting voice of his dear friend.

“Ron, how are you?  How is everything with David?” asked Bobby.

“He’s in surgery right now”, stated Ron with an exacting voice.

“So then the question is… how are you?”

With tears in his eyes and a fluttering voice Ron shared, “Bobby, I don’t understand.  God gave us this child.  Why did He allow this to happen?  David didn’t do anything to deserve this.  Why is this happening?”

With the wisdom of God on his mind and sympathy in his voice, Bobby said, “I wish I could understand, but I cannot.  Have you cried out to God and ask Him?”

“No.  Right now I am angry with God and don’t want him to be angry with me.”

“Bobby, didn’t Job cry out to God?  Don’t you think he was angry?  He lost everything, his home, his worldly wealth, his health and even all of his children.  Even King David cried out to God in his time in need.  In fact, on the cross, Jesus cried out, ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’ Cry out to Him.  He will answer”, encouraged Bobby.

Ron thanked him for his time and comfort and agreed that crying out to God directly was the best way to understand the situation.  Although, Ron didn’t feel like talking with God, he understood that was the only way to possibly get answers to his questions.

As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  He cried out to God and said, “Why?  Why is this happening?  What has David done to deserve this?  There are so many others out there who have done worse, so why can’t you punish them?”

No answer came.  As Ron continued to cry out to God but over the course of the next few hours, the questions became demands.  “God, why aren’t you answering me?!  I demand an answer.  I can’t handle this situation.  You said you wouldn’t give me anything I can’t handle.  God, where are you?!”

Again, no answer came.  Just as Ron was giving up on his prayers, the doctor came out, still clothed in hospital scrubs.  As she approached, she told them, “Ron, Barbara.  I want to let you know that David is doing okay.  He is currently resting but unfortunately, he will have to do this again in six months.  We attempted to get all of it but we cannot do any more until then.  I know it has been over five hours, but the next surgery shouldn’t be long.  After David wakes up, you can take him home.”

Another surgery?  Ron and Barbara didn’t fully understand why their precious little boy needed anther surgery but trusted the doctor for her experience and knowledge.  Questions flooded Ron’s mind once again.  What was happening?  Why to his little boy?  All he could do is get his son, take him home and give him the care he needed.

Six months later, the second surgery came.  Once again, they found themselves in the waiting room with their son.  Again, the questions flooded Ron’s mind.  As they waited for the doctor, their son was in the play area putting together some puzzles.  Not far from David, was another little boy who appeared to be crying and whimpering in his mother’s arms.  Curious about the situation David approached the little boy and asked, “Why are you crying?”

The boy’s mother replied, “He has to go into surgery.”

Overhearing David’s conversation, Barbara asked the crying boy’s mother, “Oh, what kind of surgery?”

“Tubes.  It’s a pretty long surgery, about an one and a half hours.”

Barbara just smiled and said, “I understand.  Our son needs surgery in his ears too.”

The boy’s mother responded, “Tubes?”

Barbara mustered all of the strength she could find and replied, “No.  I wish it was.  My son is having another surgery to remove a cholesteatoma tumor.”

“Oh I’m sorry.  Here I am crying over this silly procedure, while your son has a more serious situation”, the boy’s mother stated while wiping tears from her eyes.

Barbara responded, “Don’t worry about it.  Our son already had one surgery, so this should be his last.”

“How long is your son’s surgery?” asked the mother.

“The first one was about six hours but this one should only be two or three hours.”

The other mother appeared shocked and the look on her face resembled that of a statue with the expression of shock and disbelief.  Barbara and the boy’s mother continued their conversation when something incredible happened.  David turned toward the boy and said, “Let’s play a game” and took the boy by the hand and led him to the video game console.

“What just happened?” asked the boy’s mother.

Ron realized that something special was happening.  He had seen God work before, but never like this.  God was working through his son in order to bring comfort and compassion.  Before the mother could ask the question a second time, Ron responded, “God is working through my son to reach your son.”

It was about that time that the anesthesiologist came forward and called David’s name.  Once again, David was given a small drink which made him “sleepy”.  Ron then picked up his son and carried him back to the same operating table they had visited six months prior.  He laid his little boy down, kissed him once again and smiled at the doctor to acknowledge his approval of her skills.

A couple of hours passed and Ron and Barbara waited patiently for the doctor’s good word.  No one came.  They inquired from the front desk, who called for the doctor, but no response came.  “What’s happening?  Why is it taking it so long?” were questions that raced through their minds.  Another hour passes, no word from the doctor.  After another six hour surgery, the doctor emerged with a smile on her face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier, but there were minor complications.  The tumor had grown back so we needed to remove the tumor again and continue with the second stage of surgery.  Your son is resting now but all is well.  I believe we got it totally this time”, said the doctor with confidence.

Ron and Barbara finally felt relief.  Their son had been healed.  Ron still questioned God, but realized that the battle was over.  Their son would completely recover from his ailment.  He may not be able to hear but at least he would live.  Satisfied with the doctor’s results, they took David home and cared for him.

A few years went by and there was no sign of the tumor.  Only the scar behind his ear became the evidence of a prior complication.  One afternoon, Barbara took David to the doctor for a routine checkup.  It was there, the world was turned upside down once again.  The doctor warned, “I am sorry but the tumor grew back.”

Devastated by the news, Barbara asked, “Is it fatal?”

The doctor turned and said, “No.  It is operable, but I recommend a full ear canal wall down.”

Seeing the confused look on Barbara’s face, the doctor continued, “It means that he will no longer have an ear canal.  We will remove it completely, so that if this ever happens in the future, we can take care of it right here.”

This news brought a sense of relief to Barbara, but how would she tell Ron?  He had been questioning God since the last two surgeries.  Would he completely flip out and turn away from God or would he respond by going to God?  This, unfortunately, was a risk she was going to have to take.  No matter the outcome, she would stand by Ron and pray that he would respond properly.

She picked up her cell phone and dialed Ron at work.

“Hello”, said Ron.

“Hi honey”, Barbara stated with hesitancy.

“What’s wrong Barb?”

“David needs another surgery.”

The news was crushing.  It was as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest and placed into a trash compactor.  Everything hurt.  His body, mind and soul ached with pain beyond comparison.  It was then Barbara interrupted his self pity session, “Ron.  It’s operable.  The doctor will remove his ear canal and remove the tumor once again.  Once completed, they will be able to do it in the office so that David doesn’t have to go through this again.”

There was some sense of comfort to that news, even though his life felt crushed.  At least David would only have to go through this one more time.  Ron, however, knew that he needed to carry his little boy once again and place him onto the operating table.  The toughest of tasks he ever encountered was once again upon him.  Would he be able to do it again?  Would he loose his mind?  As he contemplated each of these questions, he remembered his first thought, ‘At least David would only have to go through this one more time.’

Weeks went by as Barbara and Ron prepared David for the final surgery.  Day after day they would answer David’s questions.  “Why is this happening to me?  Is God really there?  What will happen after this surgery?  Will I get sick again from the ‘sleepy medicine’?”  David has a number of significant and relevant questions.  After the first two surgeries, David had gotten very sick and didn’t want to leave the hospital.  Although the doctors and nurses gave him an anti-nausea shot, David’s body continued to react negatively.  Vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches and pain surrounded David after every surgery.  For David, the nightmare was going to continue.  Was this going to ever end?

On one occasion, David asked Ron, “Daddy, is Jesus really with me during my surgery?”

Understanding the fear in David’s mind, Ron responded, “Absolutely.  Jesus is always with you.  He never leaves us alone.”

“How do we know?” asked David.

Holding back the tears, Ron responded, “Jesus told us this in the Bible”.  It was then Ron waited for the response he thought he would get.  However, David was to respond in a different manner.

“Well, Daddy.  If you believe that, then so do I.  I love you, Daddy”.

No longer could Ron hold back his feelings.  Tears began streaming down his cheeks.  He opened his arms and David gladly embraced his father giving comfort and relief.  Attempting to control his composure, Ron looked into David’s eyes and said, “Thank you.  You helped Daddy today.”

“How?” asked David with a curious look.

“You helped me believe what God has told me.”

“What did he tell you?”

“He told me that this wasn’t about me.  It was about you.  God told me He was going to use these problems for your life.  I don’t know exactly what this means, but I do trust Him to complete the work He has started.”

David smiled.  He didn’t quite understand what Ron meant, but he knew if his daddy was happy then so was he.

The day of the final surgery came.  Once again, the anesthesiologist gave David the “sleepy medicine” but this time asked him a question.

“David, now that you are older.  Do you want to walk in on your own or would you like a wheelchair?”

David thought for a moment and looked up at Ron as if to ask for his approval.

“Would you like for me to carry you in again?” asked Ron.

David then looked at the anesthesiologist and with a sense of confidence and said, “I think I will walk in.  Can my daddy come too?”

With a smile on his face the anesthesiologist looked at Ron while bending down to David’s height and said, “Sure.  He can come too.”

David then grabbed Ron’s hand and walked down the hospital corridors to the operating room.  This was the first time David had seen it with his own eyes.  The other two times, David remembered falling asleep while waiting.  Fear began to encompass the young boy’s mind and body.  He knew he couldn’t turn back but he was scared.  David turned to Ron and asked, “Daddy, can you stay with me until I fall asleep?”

Ron smiled and said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They entered the operating room and Ron picked up David and placed him on the table.  While the doctors prepared the anesthesia machine, David held Ron’s hand.  Recognizing David’s fear, Ron bent over to kiss David.  He then assisted the doctors in placing the mask over David’s nose and mouth.  Ron then told David, “Remember, Jesus is with you and I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

David continued to hold Ron’s hand, gripping Ron tighter and tighter to let him know that David didn’t want his daddy to leave.  A few seconds later, David’s eyes drew heavy and his hand slowly released Ron’s hand.  Ron then knew it was the doctor’s moment.  Ron turned to the doctor and said, “This is my boy.  Please take care of him.”

The doctor acknowledged Ron and said, “As a parent, you have my word.”

Ron turned around and met the nurse in the hallway who was to assist him in getting back to the waiting area.  As Ron met up with Barbara, he embraced his wife and comforted her once again.  Both knew this was the last surgery, but it still didn’t make it any easier.  Emotions flared from one extreme to the next, from happiness to sadness, from smiling to depression.  Each moment was different from the next.  As they once again waited for the doctor to say she was done, Ron decided to take a walk outside.

Once there, Ron decided it was time to do business with God.  He hated the random thoughts that flooded his mind and wanted help to get them in order.  Standing by the ledge, Ron gripped it with both hands, looked up toward the sky and said, “Lord.  I know you are in control of all things.  You have shown me how faithful you are.  Even when I am not faithful, you are.  Please let me know if this is truly the last surgery.  I know you won’t give your children anything they can’t handle, but I am not sure if Barbara, David or I can go through this again.”

Ron then patiently waited for a response.  Almost immediately, his random thoughts became order.  Where there was disorder in his mind, now had a sense of organization.  As Ron searched his thoughts, he was reminded something Jesus told his disciples.  He remembered that during his final meal with his disciples, after his resurrection, Jesus told them to “baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.  Teaching them everything I command to you.”

Although Ron didn’t believe in trusting his thoughts normally, nor did he believe in numerology, Ron believed that this portion of God’s work was going to be complete.  He thought to himself, “The first surgery was for the Father, the second for the Son and this one for the Holy Spirit.  All of these surgeries were so that each member of the God-head could take part in working in David’s life.  Each one desired to do a work but each work was with one purpose, to bring David closer to God.”

Excited to hear this word from God, Ron immediately shared it with Barbara.  Although they would not have confirmation for years to come, Ron believed that God was done with teaching David this way.  It was God’s special way of reaching out to David and carrying him through the dark times of his life.  It was in their darkest moment, that God revealed Himself to their hurting souls.

“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.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. “ – Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)