Gun Control, God Forgotten

Over the past week, we have seen the tragedy of children being gunned down by one, who portrayed evil in a physical form.  From this, discussions of gun control, amped up security, school safety and insults from all sides have permeated our lives through social media and news agencies.  We have seen the ugliness of hatred, the fearfulness of insecurity and the inability to think in a productive manner.   Political leaders, law enforcement officials and those we view as “in the know”, have inappropriately blamed agencies, people groups and individuals for a heinous act which was caused by a single person, who clearly had mental illness and emotional problems.  No matter who you may be, no matter where you may be reading this, we have all been affected by this tragedy.  But have you considered the problem within our society is much bigger than gun control, school safety or individuals whom we feel have allowed this system of hatred and bigotry to continue?

What about the other immoral behaviors that permeate our society?  I’ll give you a few.  Millions of unborn babies are massacred annually.  Immoral sexual behavior oozes out of the pours of our TVs and movies.  Violent behavior has become acceptable since the birth of video games.  We have allowed our evil fantasies to become our reality.  So why would we allow this to occur?  Why do we thrill on the ills of others?  How has our society come this far this quickly?  Simply, we have rejected the message of the Good News.

The issue concerning all of our society’s problems is not with the individual evil acts we might be marching against, rather it is our broken hearts.  Hearts that have forgotten in Whom we have been created in.  Hearts that have blocked out love.  Hearts that have become corrupted by fantasies and wonders of amazement which have tried to destroy a belief in an Almighty, Ever-Present, All Knowing God.  Our hearts have become blackened by evil desires, temporarily trying to fill the God sized void we all have inside of us.

Do we need to discuss how to make our society safer?  Yes.  Do we need to debate gun control?  Sure.  But we also need to discuss mental health issues, insurance involvement, over taxing, over spending and even political offices and the corruption involved there.  But let me ask this question:

“For what profit is it to a person if they gain the whole world, and lose their own soul?  Or what will a person give in exchange for their soul?”

These questions were brought forth by a man long ago.  His society was similar to ours.  His society said, “You can take the life of your enemies”, yet he taught to pray for those who persecute you.  His society said, “If you want to divorce your wife, just give here the paperwork”, yet he taught what God has joined together, let no one separate.  His society taught, “Don’t waste your time with beggars and diseased”, yet he spent time with them.

Don’t we say the same thing?  Our society says, “Destroy entire groups who are violent.”  Yet He says, “Lift your enemies in prayer and pray for their eternal souls.”  Our society says, “Love whomever you want, whenever you want, how you want.”  Yet He says, “Intimate love is between a husband and wife.”  Our society says, “Play your violent games, listen to your hate-filled songs, enjoy everything while you can.”  Yet He says, “Out of the heart of a person, the mouth speaks.”  Our society says, “Separation of church and state.”  Yet He said, it is God who places those in power.  Our society says, “Remove ‘In God we trust’”.  Yet He said, Trusting in God is the only thing that can keep your society in place.

The heart of the matter in our society today is we have removed God from everything.  We no longer allow our children to pray in school.  We no longer stand up for Godly, moral behavior.  We no longer promote civility.  We no longer promote family values.  What we do promote are things that take God out of the equation:

  • Evolution: God is removed when we believe we evolved from primordial slime.
  • Sex: God is removed when we allow ourselves to be led by emotions rather than His Word.
  • Music: God is removed when our lyricists promote drug use and violent behavior.
  • Family: God is removed when we spend more time at our jobs than with our spouse and children.
  • Church:  God is removed when we forget our mission to lead others to the cross of Jesus Christ and make decisions based on our own desires.

We have removed God in all aspects of our lives and these are the results that we see today:

  • Increased violent crimes
  • Increased disease
  • Increased natural disasters
  • Increased drug abuse
  • Increased hatred
  • Increased feelings of hopelessness

God said, “Whatever a person sows, they also reap.”  We are reaping the fruit of removing God from our lives.  But we don’t have to stay there either.  We can change but we also can’t make this change alone.

The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  When we call on Jesus Christ and acknowledge His sovereignty, His sacrifice and His love, our old ways get changed.  They become new.  It is Jesus Christ who can change us, make us into a people He desires us to be.  Only He can make an old life into a new life.  Only He can change the hearts of people, like you and I, and make us into a new creation, giving us a new heart and a new mind.  It is only by the power of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit can we change.

We can debate all we want.  We can discuss any topic you wish.  We can encourage and we can discourage.  We can build up or we can destroy.  None of these matters if we do not have the love of Jesus Christ in us.

1 John 5:1-2 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.”

If we love God, then we will love others.  If we love others, we will not go out of our way to destroy them.  We will not feed off of the divisive media.  We will not allow our children to continue down a destructive road of pornography, abuse and violence.  If we love God, we will bury our misery of bigotry and cling to the double-edged sword, which is the Word of God.  If we love God, we show that by our actions.

We must stop this bickering, this divisive spirit and embrace the only One who can save us, the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Without Him, we will continue to go down a road leading to the very pit of hell.  Instead, let us show how much we love God by showing love toward others.  Praying for those who persecute us.  Feeding those who are slaves to drug addiction.  Caring for those who cannot care for themselves.  Helping others become who God sees them as, a person made in His image for His purpose to exclaim His glory.

For those of us who claim to be Christians, we must follow Christ.  This means giving up our dreams for His.  This means no longer doing what we used to do.  This means spending time with Him daily, learning more about Him.  But this also means our actions have to match our faith.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” – I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

Without the love of Jesus Christ, all we do is like a loud obnoxious sound.  Like the nail scrape of a chalkboard, so is our actions without the love of Jesus Christ in us.  We need to love.  We need Jesus Christ in order to love.  Without Jesus Christ, our society is hopeless.

Jesus Christ changed the world using 12 men who were thought to be nothing in their society.  First He had to change each of them before they could help change the world.  The same holds true for us.  If each of us were to allow Jesus Christ to change us, then in turn we can point others toward the cross of change, the Cross of Christ.  Our country, this world can be changed, if we first allow God to change us.

The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.  Make that first step and allow Jesus Christ to change you.  Once we move toward Jesus and away from our ideals, we will learn that nothing can change our society better than the love of Jesus Christ.  It starts with us first.  Then it flows out to others.  Pray, right now, for God to change you through the power of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Then He will give you His Holy Spirit and He will change you from the inside out.

God bless and encourage someone today.


Love (w)Holy?

The video played.  My notebook was opened ready to take notes on the next section of Church History.  Anticipating the amount of sentences I might write, did not allow me to fully understand the scope and complexity of what I was about to watch.  As I took notes, I would freeze and unfreeze the video, ensuring my notes were detailed and accurate.  It wasn’t until, I watched the video a second time, that I realized my anxiety and worry over life’s turbulence, awarded me the gold medal of “How small am I” champion.

The video series, I am currently studying has little to do with the people involved, rather, it is how those same people suffered in encouraging ambition as they await the fate others had for them.  The two main characters which the videos centered around were Polycarp and Perpetua.  Two Christians who, lovingly and willingly allowed themselves to become martyrs for the faith we continue to live by today.

Polycarp was a student of John, the author of Revelation.  It wasn’t until his later days, that the proconsul of his region and the people of the arena called for Polycarp’s demise.  Although Polycarp tried to avoid capture, it wasn’t until a Roman soldier beat a servant boy into telling him where Polycarp was living.  What struck me was not the brutality of the Roman soldier, nor the intention of proconsul, but the response by Polycarp to the soldier.

It was said, that Polycarp invited the soldier into his home for some food and water.  He was kind toward the soldier, only desiring to fulfill the law of Christ to “love your enemies”.  Polycarp then asked the soldier if he could spend some time in prayer, which allegedly took around 2 hours.  It was after this encounter that Polycarp was brought before the proconsul for judgement.

When the time came for Polycarp to suffer the consequences of his commitment to Christ, he displayed his gentleness toward the soldiers, letting them know that no matter what they do to him, God will give him the strength he needs to suffer patiently through this temporary painful experience.  His gentleness, his humble demeanor and the words spoken showed me that no matter what ills of life may come, nothing can compare to the inexplicable desire to leave this world and bow before the God of creation in humble thankfulness.

The second person my study was focused on was Perpetua.  She was a woman who was highly educated, knowing Latin and Greek and able to clearly write her thoughts in a way for everyone to understand.  What drew me to her most was her willingness, her love toward everyone, including those who desired to do her harm.  While in prison, she cared for her baby and others as they needed.  She was able to keep a diary, thereby documenting her experiences while imprisoned, awaiting her judgement.

However, it was her words which struck a chord within my very soul.  All the while she was imprisoned; she expressed her love toward her father, who begged her to turn her heart away from Christ.  She could not do such a thing.  She then expressed her own desire to live a life just as Christ lived, even unto death, a holy life filled with love toward everyone, including her enemies.  Up until the very end, she showed love and compassion toward others, even the very one who would drive a sword through her neck.  She did not feel condemnation or worry, but satisfaction in knowing that her life was being taken because of something Christ said, “If they hate me, they will hate you as well.”  Yet, she also held to the command by Christ to “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.”

Both of these people, lived a holy life, desiring only to complete the mission given to them by Christ, to make disciples.  They had a desire not only to complete this mission, but also to ensure they heard, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  They felt honored to be one’s who suffered for the Gospel.  They did not worry about the temporary pain and suffering.  They worried not about their own future.  They did not worry about what career path to take.  They simply desired to life a holy life, filled with a holy love, even for those who wanted to do them harm.

After all this, a question popped into my mind, “Do I concern myself with the command of Christ or the worries of what this life has to bring?”  If I am going to be fully honest, I care about this life more.  Like others, I worry about silly things, in a silly time for an unholy life rather than concerning myself with a holy life, using holy love to reach an unholy people.

How foolish my thinking has been.  How wicked are my thoughts and actions concerning this life.  This life is not about what I can gain, but rather, what He can gain through me.  This life is not about how much I can acquire, but rather, how many lives He can acquire through me.  As I study Church history, I have been given the gift which cannot be repaid, the gift of understanding why Christ suffered so.  That same love, that holy love can conquer anything.  Our fears, our anxieties, our illnesses, our depression can all be obliterated when we accept and life using the holy love given to us through His Holy Spirit.

We cannot express any holy love unless the Holy Spirit enables us to do so.  The Holy Spirit enabled our ancient brothers and sisters to display a holy love and He desires to continue to display it through us as well.  Can we all take a single moment to thank God for those who showed that holy love despite what circumstance they faced?

Lord, thank you not only for saving my life through Jesus Christ, but also enabling us to love others, even though they do not love us.  Keep us from hatred and lead us toward the holy love displayed through the actions of Jesus Christ.  May your holy love be displayed to a world that needs You.  Amen.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Truly Trusting

Over the last several months, there has been a reoccurring theme which has brought me to a pinnacle of life, do I truly trust?  What is trust?  Do I trust those around me?  Do I trust in those who are over me at work?  Do I trust in a system of thought or do I trust a system of sin?  In whom do I trust?

If you grew up in a church, you have most likely heard the following:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your strength.”

“The God of my strength, in whom I will trust…”

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.”

“I will put My trust in Him.”

So what is trust?  How is it that I can place my trust in someone or something?  When do I know that I truly trust in Him?

According to Mirriam-Webster, trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.  It is a place, person or thing on which ones confidence is placed.  It is the ability to totally rely on someone or something which has character, abilities, strength and truth.  It is someone or something we can fully place our confidence in, knowing they have our best interests at the forefront of their heart and mind.

Like many others, I have had to battle the “monster within’ in an effort to trust.  Over many years, I have learned that trusting others has its challenges.  Many break that trust when they share your most inmost desires or flaws with others, without permission.  Some break that trust when they set you up for failure at work or in church.  Others may break that trust by going back on their word.  No matter how you slice the pie of trust, people almost always lose their trust in others.

So what about things?  Can we really trust in things?  Daily, thousands of people fly on planes trusting that the plane will stay in the air until the pilot says otherwise.  Many of us trust our cars won’t break down while we are on the interstate.  Most of us trust our jobs will provide for us and our families.  Some may even trust in objects which represent their religion.  But no matter how we slice this pie of trust, things degrade over time and cause us to realize they are not trustworthy.  We lose our jobs.  The plane crashes.  The car breaks down and the idol disintegrates over time as our lives spin out of control.  We have then learned that we cannot trust in things.  So what or who can we trust in?

It doesn’t sound all that good when we have a hard time trusting in someone or something.  We begin to feel as if we are the only one who is going through a hard time.  Our minds frustrate us with an unending battle of raging thoughts and irrational fictional stories.  We begin to believe that in this world, there is not a single person who can be trusted.  At the same time, we lose hope.  We lose our purpose.  We lose ourselves in the vacuum of distrust and misery.  Over time, we become the very thing we wish to avoid.  We allow our anger and frustration to take root causing us to be disliked.  We become the very object of distrust.

What I have been learning recently is not what or who I cannot trust in, but what do I actually truly trust in that is keeping me in a prison of misery and disappointment?  In my normal day, I listen to KLove twice a day.  Once going into work and once coming home.  Usually, I sing along to all the songs and bellow out a “joyful noise”, but recently, I find myself listening to the words of each song and thinking about life.  Here are some of the lyrics from a few songs I normally belt out:

“You want me.  The King of heaven wants me.”

“For the prodigal son.  Grace wins.  For the worst part of you and me.  Grace wins.”

“Come meet this motley crew of misfits.  These liars and these thieves.  There’s no one unwelcome here.  So that sin and shame that you’ve brought with you, you can leave it at the door and let mercy draw you near.”

Life is full of problems and misfits.  But what these songs have taught me was that I was trusting in my efforts, my strength and my abilities.  The heart of my life hasn’t been one of trust but one of pride and selfishness.  Rather than trusting in the Lord for everything, I only trusted Him when reading His word and in prayer.  And even then, did I really truly trust in Him?

Remember the definition of trust?  Trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.  It is a place, person or thing on which ones confidence is placed.  Can God be trusted that much?  Let me break it down this way.  Does a thing have character?  Does a thing have ability or strength or truth?  Of course not.  A thing is given its power by when its creator loses sight that he/she is the creator and the object is nothing more than their ability to imagine fantastic dreams of wonder.  Not reality or truth, just dreams.

However, can a person be trusted?  Every person has character but is that character flawed?  Probably.  Do they have abilities or strength?  Probably.  What about truth?  Most people believe truth is a relative word.  They believe their truth is one of many truths that can be relied upon.  Unfortunately, many of those truths are in conflict and demand that if one exists the other cannot.  You cannot have one religion say, “There is only one god” while others believe hundreds exist.  If someone rolls through a stop sign, they are liable for breaking the law.  Under the perception of all truth is relative, we allow ourselves to break the very law created to keeping the peace and safety of both ourselves and others.  We cannot both stop and roll through the same stop sign and expect the police officer will be gracious to let us go.  One demands a price be paid, the other does not.  Therefore, we conclude it is extremely difficult to trust in people, so how could we possibly truly trust in others?

What about God?  Can we fully trust in Him?  First, let’s look at His character.

“…in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.”

If God cannot lie, then he can only tell the truth.  Therefore, his character cannot be compromised by sinful behavior, like lying.  God also cannot sin…

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)

So if God is without sin and cannot lie, then His character cannot be flawed.  But can we honestly truly trust Him?  What about ability or strength?  How can that help us to understand if we can truly trust Him?

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” – Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?” – Mark 12:24

God has more power, more strength than anything we could ever imagine and then some.  No matter strong we may think we are, God is infinitely stronger.  No matter how much power a single person or government may have, God is that much stronger.  No matter how we fight and fight and fight to live, in the blink of an eye, God has the power to take and give life as He pleases.  God has the character, strength and ability.  So what about truth?

”Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.’” – John 8:31-32 (NKJV)

Jesus is the Truth.  If we study His word and live by His word, then we are his disciples.  Once that occurs, we know Jesus and He knows us.  And it is the power, character and ability of the truth that will set us free.  It is Jesus who is Truth and it is Truth that sets us free.

So can we truly trust God?  The answer is a resounding yes!  He is the only one we can truly trust.  His character is flawless.  His strength is unmatched.  His abilities are far beyond what we could ever imagine or think.  His Truth has set us free.  Therefore, we can whole-heartedly trust in Him.

Over these last number of months, I have learned that when I don’t truly trust in Him, I am in sin.  Can I give him everything or do I need to hold onto everything.  Life is uncontrollable.  Bad times and troubling times will come.  However, I needed to learn that truly trusting in God is not a blind trust but an active one.  It is a trust that allows us to give everything to Him, yet act according to His will.

Like me, you may want financial security and comfort, but that was never guaranteed to us.  Those things are a byproduct of our trust and faith in Him.  They may or may not fit into the plan God has for our lives.  What we do know, beyond any shadow of doubt is that God wants us to make disciples.  In everything we do, in all the places we visit, our goal should be the same, make disciples.

This trusting in God is a journey.  It is not the end all, heaven is that.  We all need to trust in God fully.  With all we are, with all our being, our action is that of trusting He has all that we need.  Our future is not known to us, but it is known to him fully.  He knows when we are born, he knows when we will die.  He understands our suffering, he understands our fears.  When we trust in Him, we no longer need to fear the unknown.  It is not control of the situation that eliminates fear, it is the trust we place in the Almighty.  When we place our entire being, in trust, in His hands, fear no longer can stand the light of Christ.

Let’s begin our journey together, learning how to truly trust in the Creator of all, Jesus Christ.  Then and only then will we live a life free of fear and we will be able to overcome our life situations.  Truly trust in Christ and be set free.

God bless and encourage someone today.

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

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.