Fiction Evidenced As Reality


What is your greatest fear?  How does it affect you?  Do you get a physical reaction or just a mental tornado upsetting the organization in your mind?  Is your greatest fear something you can control?  Is the lack of control your greatest fear?

Most times we fear because of the “unknown factors” which lie before us.  We look at our circumstances, calculate our steps and realize that there are factors which do not enter into the equation.  We begin to wonder what those factors are and how they will work out.  We then allow our minds to wander adding another unknown factor which exponentially increases our fears, until the point where we have no control, including control of our thoughts.

It was once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Although I understand the thought process behind this and the times in which it was said, I think that we need to go one step further with that statement.  I believe, there is nothing to fear.  This is not the same thing as being afraid.  There are times in our lives, when being afraid of something may save our lives.  When we are caught in a burning house, it is being afraid of dying that drives us to try and escape it.  When we are caught in the under tow, being sucked out into the middle of the ocean, it is being afraid that may keep us afloat.

Being afraid of something and fearing are very different.  Being afraid keeps us alive.  Having fear kills us slowly.  When we fear, we create an environment where our minds are no longer in control of our thoughts and many times a physical reaction occurs.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I woke up yesterday and felt very stressed out.  Over the last three weeks, my schedule has been, what some would call…INSANE!  Working a full time job, where we have been short staffed with more work coming in, helping a friend’s church stay afloat, spending time with my wife and kids and trying to spend more time with God has created an atomic explosion in my mind.  Yesterday was the fall out.

In previous blogs, I shared with you my struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  However, even though I suffer with this, there are days, like yesterday, where even medication won’t help.  Part of my therapy to combat this “fallout” is to spend time in prayer, read Scripture and write.  If any one of those components is missing, the fallout wins and depression begins to set itself into place.

Here is where fear takes root.  Depression is just one way that fear solidifies itself and it is very difficult to get rid of it.  Have you ever tried to take out a weed that was in the ground for a long time?  The weed spreads out its roots over a vast area.  This way, when the gardener comes, he/she struggles to pull it out of the ground.  Sometimes the week breaks at ground level and cannot be pulled any further.  The gardener then has two choices.  Choice #1 is to wait it out and then try to pull it out again with brut force.  However with this choice, the weed must grow again.  With fear, we may do things to pull it out by brut force but many times, the root of the issue is still there.  When we choose this method, we allow the fear to reinstate itself and take further root in our lives.  There is another choice.

Choice #2 is a bit more drastic but effective.  If the gardener chooses the wise choice, he/she will get a digging tool and begin the process of ensuring that all of the weed plant, with its roots, is permanently removed.  With this method, the gardener will disturb the entire area in an effort to find out the “root cause”.  The gardener will dig up as much as they can in order to ensure that the weed does not return.  When we deal with fear properly, we must disturb other areas of our lives.  The digging up of past issues, past hurts or past relationships causes us to shuffle ideas and question our motivations.  It forces us to rethink ideals and theologies we have learned.  It upsets all that we believe, the question is can we recover from that disturbance?

Just like the ground, healing takes time.  In the Old Testament, God tells Israel to plant and sow for 6 years.  On the 7th year, let the ground rest from its work.  There are many theologies concerning this but from a practical level, it gave the ground one year to heal.

Sometimes, we need to do the same thing.  There are times we need to step away from the busyness of life and allow ourselves to heal.  Maybe, we need to let go of horrible past relationships or forgive someone who has hurt us.  In some cases, it may be us that needs to ask for forgiveness from someone we hurt.  Whatever it is, don’t let fear dismantle the healing process.

Fear is nothing more than Fiction Evidenced As Reality.  It doesn’t exist.  It is a false representation of the reality of a hurting soul.  Fear is the tool Satan uses to keep us where we are so that we do not cry out to the loving Good Shepherd, who is ready to rescue us.  Fear is just as bad as quotes that people say is in Scripture.

Have you ever heard, “Time heals all wounds”?  It’s in the Bible, right?  There is nothing further from the truth.  This saying is a way for us, as human beings, to pull out the weed of fear and leave its roots in place.  Time does not heal, it just passes.

Many have tried to say it is a Psalm or Proverb.  It isn’t.  What the Scripture does say is in Psalm 147:

2The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. 4He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.…

New American Standard Bible

It is the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.  It is the Lord who heals their wounds.  It is the Lord who counts the stars and names them all.  It is the Lord who can get rid of whatever is keeping you back from coming to Him.

If you are hurting, He knows.  If you are questioning, He has answers.  If you are crying, he is crying with you.  Two of the greatest words ever written were when Jesus approaches the grave of Lazarus.

John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”  It was an incredible proclamation.  Jesus knew Lazarus was going to die.  Jesus knew He was going to raise him from the dead.  So why did Jesus weep?  Simply to show he was 100% human.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show He was 100% God.  Isn’t that an encouragement for us today?  Think about that for a moment.  Jesus felt what we feel.  He understood what it was like to lose someone.  He understands what it is like to hurt.  And in all of that experience, He never allowed fear to persuade him.  He never allowed the fiction that Satan feeds our minds to take root in His own.

If you are hurting, if you are living in fear, there is someone who understands.  Jesus Christ knows what you are going through, yet desires for you and I to tell Him.  It is Jesus Christ who can heal you.  He can remove the roots of the weed that so easily entangles you.  Only Jesus Christ can take all of our fear, all of our anxiety and use it for His glory and His purposes.

If you don’t know who Jesus Christ is, He is the One who left heaven to come to earth as a baby.  He lived a human life, while displaying His God nature.  He allowed Himself to be beaten and tortured.  He allowed Himself to be put on public display, naked and gave His life in the most horrific way of His time, by being crucified.  But it didn’t end there.  After He cried out in a voice, “It is finished”, he was buried and on the 3rd day, rose from the dead.  HE IS ALIVE!  He is calling out to you, desiring for you to let Him rescue you.

No matter your hurt.  No matter your pain.  Jesus Christ can take it from you.  Just cry out to Him and ask Him to rescue you.  He will.  Let Him into your life and give you the life He always wanted for you.  Believe in Him, cry out to Him and be healed by Him.  Don’t let fear stop you from meeting the only One who can save you, Jesus Christ.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Time


I am struggling today.  This isn’t a physical battle.  It is however a battle for my mind.

Recently, a friend of mine decided it was time to move out of New York.  He made that decision after watching the financial and mental burden the New York City and Long Island area have placed on its residents.  He decided to make his family life better; leaving this area would be the best decision.  So far, he has been right.

For years, I have dreamed of leaving New York and going to other places that have not only been more affordable but less stressful, a place where I can raise my kids without the pressures of having to work infinite hours and spend more time with them.  I have dreamt of being able to sit outside at night and see the stars thinking about the wonders God has created in the heavens.  Being able to go outside in the early morning hours and sit and spend time with God in the quietness of the outdoors.  Listening to the calm breeze while pondering the greatness of the God I serve.

Unfortunately, this has not been my lot.  I live in an area where busyness is just a way of life.  Wake up, get dressed, get stuck in traffic, go to work for 9 to 10 hours per day, come home, help with the family, study then sleep and do it all over again the next day.  The non-stop pressure builds and builds only for my body and mind to stop properly functioning causing me to sit back for a day to wonder why I don’t feel so well.  This busyness causes less time with my family and more time going from one thing to the next.  So you would think that it is a no-brainer for me to pick up my family, quit my job and leave, right?

Getting up and leaving suddenly is not as easy or logical as you may be thinking.  Currently, I work at a job that I love.  My coworkers and supervisors are great and are like family.  What I do is interesting and never the same.  Each day is a new adventure.  It is a place that I have spent the last 15 years learning not just to love the work, but the people as well.  Regularly I remember them in my prayers and hope that all of them one day come into the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of their sins and live for Him.

In addition to that, I have a church family that I love as well.  For most of my life, they have encouraged me, taught me, and disciplined me with love and care.  They have prayed for my family, shown me their love through actions and have allowed me the pleasure and opportunity to try out my skills as one who preaches the Word of God.  I have even had the pleasure to have a taste of heaven when my father and I served on the same Elder board at the same time.  The first and last time that had ever happened in the history of our church.  It has been a place that I can call not just home, but family.

More recently, I have begun to learn how to be a pastor at a local church on Long Island.  Their pastor has been sick for some time and they have graciously allowed me to teach them, council them and learn what and how a church works, from the pastoral viewpoint.  Over the past 7 months or so, they too have become an extended family for me.

So you may be asking, if your life is as good as you say it is, then what is the struggle?  Why not just go on with life doing what you are doing and forget about those things which you do not have?  These are great questions, but the complexity of life and the things of this life are not what I struggle with.  Whether the house I live in is large or small or new or old, makes no difference for me.  What matters to me is something that you and I lose every day…..time.

As I grow older and my kids become adults, I notice that time is fast-forwarding at light speed.  My once little boy who made believe he read the Bible, is now learning to survive as an adult.  The other little boy who wanted to help his daddy with everything, is now in a high school where he can try subjects out to discover what he loves and wants to do.  In just a few short years both of them will be mainly on their own, living the lives they chisel out of their own masterpiece from their portion of life’s marble.

I have been watching friends of mine retire and begin living their lives as “free men” allowing them to do things with their family that previously, they could not do.  They have gained time for their families, they have slowed down the clock a bit in order to focus on helping their children become adults.

Time is something we lose every second.  Even as you have been reading this, time has slipped away into the eternal void of past lives.  No more will those seconds or minutes be gained, but will become mostly forgotten and largely lost to the busyness of what this world has to offer.  As quickly as time enters is as swiftly as it leaves.

My struggle with time has been for some time.  How to make the best decisions with the limited time I have on this earth.  During my mind’s battle for time, I have also learned that I long for something that I am not promised either.  I contemplate and plan for a time not yet discovered, a time not promised nor experienced yet.  We make plans for retirement (which I cannot do any time soon), we plan vacations, we even our meals, but are we sure that our next breath, the next second are promised?

Even with all of that, I hold onto the promise of the Good Shepherd who walks in the ways of His Father.  My focus is not on what this life has to offer or the limited time I am here, but on the work that He has called me to.  A life to help others and teach them to rely on Him.  No matter if I work in the secular world, or inside a church, the gift of being able to teach others and help others learn about the love and completion of Jesus Christ is my calling.  He gives me the strength, wisdom and patience to deal with those things, most don’t understand or care about.  He allows me the ability to do time management and still allows me quality of time my family needs from me.

As I work this all out in my mind, I am praying for clarity and direction.  I have learned from Jonah, that running away from this calling will only lead me to times of extreme trials and tribulations.  I have learned from Peter and Paul that what we have here is only a fleeting memory and unimportant in the scheme of eternity.  I have learned from Ruth that spending time with family is extremely important, so long as our focus is on God.  I have learned from Job that all that I have here, including my children, are only things that are borrowed and can be taken away in the blinking of an eye.  I have learned from David that crying out to God in my moments of struggle is where He wants me to be.   I have learned from Jesus Christ that what I want is not what is best, but the direction of God is best even if the rest of the world thinks you’re crazy.

So pray for me and my family.  Pray that we will make decisions, not based on desires, time or logic, but will make decisions based on what God is telling us.  For those who know me and are reading this, I have not made any decisions and will not for some time, so don’t worry, I ain’t going anywhere.  But one day, I will have to make some hard decisions, so I ask that when that time comes, whether it comes quickly or slowly, that we make the decisions based on His will for His Kingdom and not what we want because of our earthly sinful desires.

We thank you in advance for traveling with us and allowing me to express my struggles with you.  God bless and encourage someone today.

A Letter to My Children


My dearest child,

I love you.  That is the first thing I want you to know.  I love you.

My love for you cannot be expressed in words or pictures.  It cannot be explained by the philosopher.  It cannot be understood by the educated.  I can only be realized by actions.

The actions I have taken at times have been extreme and misunderstood.  I have been falsely accused of things that no person could ever imagine.  My accusers have painted my actions with the dirtiest of brushes and made me appear as vile and evil.  No matter how hard I have tried to explain my actions, they do not want to hear.

Although my enemies have attacked me, my love for you never wanes.  You are my child, my offspring.  The fact that you exist brings joy to my heart and peace to my mind.  Nothing can change that.  You are my child and always will be.

In recent days, I have been watching the news.  I have seen the hypocrisy and confusion of this past election.  I have watched as many have marched in protest against the results.  I have read the evil and disgusting posts on social media.  Hopefully, you have not succumb to the rhetoric now being spread by those who want to do you harm because of my actions.  Please stay away from being sucked into stating what you think your rights are and remember you are my child and always will be.

Many of your siblings have forgotten what I have done and my love for them.  They have allowed the promises of this world to cloud their judgment and have forgotten about my love for them.  One of your brothers and sisters were on the news.  It wasn’t good.  They began to stand for issues, I never intended for them to stand for.  During their interview, they questioned my love for them and asked for me to not contact them again.  They have forgotten, they are my children and always will be.

Don’t ever forget how I saved you when you were drowning.  Don’t ever forget the time when you cried out for me to carry you because you scrapped your leg. I came running to comfort you.  Don’t ever forget the time when I carried you into the operating room and watched over you as the doctors did their work.  Don’t ever forget the time when you cried because someone hurt you and I told you, “You are my child and always will be.”

Do you remember the time, when you were young and you went out all night with your friends, even though I gave you a curfew?  Did you forget the time you screamed, “I hate you” and stormed to your room?  How did I react?  Did I not explain the necessary discipline with tears in my eyes?  Did I not hug you deeply and held you until you fell asleep?  Did I not continue to watch over you and ensure your safety?  You are my child and always will be.

I have tried to remind your siblings of this very same thing.  My expression of love has been overwhelming, even though many have forgotten what I did for them.  They have forsaken my love to satisfy their own desires.  They have argued over needless topics and have twisted my guidance.  They believe things I never taught and claim I teach them.  They have even turned my own words against me in order to have their own following.  I am upset with them and will deal with them soon as a loving father.  They are my children and always will be.

Others have claimed to be my children even though I do not know who they are.  They have claimed to be knowledgeable about my business but deny what I am doing.  Many times, they have called and I have answered only to hear nothing but static and noise.  They do not visit me for dinner.  They do not come over for the holidays.  They only call when they need something but I cannot understand their language.  They are not my children and never will be.

Yet in spite of this, you have spent time with me.  You know who I am and I know who you are.  We have enjoyed each other’s company and holidays have been a blast.  The time we have spent together has been my most joyous times even in times of trials.  I have watched as you have grown from my little baby to my adult child.  You are my child and always will be.

Unfortunately, your siblings have forgotten that I commanded them to be of one mind and purpose.  They have forsaken my will and sought after what they want.  They call me only when they need something and when I try to talk, they either interrupt me or hang up.  I try to call them back but they do not pick up the phone.  I have spent countless hours crying over them, desiring that they come back to me and listen to my words.  In spite of their disobedience, they are my children and always will be.

They have forgotten the time when I rescued them from the fire.  They have forgotten the times I cried in front of them, yet they spit in my face.  Now they are attacking you because of me.  In their own desperation to explain the evil in the world, they deny what I have done and curse me to my face.  They march in the streets, spread hate over social media and push the agendas of my enemies.  No more do I recognize them, no longer can I stand and wait.  No longer can this disobedience continue.  They may be my children and always will be, but discipline to my house is coming!

I am still in charge.  I have never left my place of authority.  It was given to me by my father because of my love for him and you even if you don’t want to believe it.  In the coming days, I will discipline my children because of their disobedience.  They will come back to me whether in this life or the life to come, because they are my children and always will be.

I have never changed and never will, even if my children forsake me.  My words will always stand.  My rules have never waned.  No one can change what I have spoken for they have been written down for you.  I have ensured all of my letters have been gathered to one place for your convenience.  You have everything I want you to know in those letters.  Each letter was written with a specific purpose in mind, to ensure you never forget that I am your father.  You are my child and always will be.

The day is coming and almost here when I will come back for you.  I will return when I am allowed in the time my father commanded me.  When I arrive, you will know.  You will see me and I will bring you home.  Your suffering is almost over.  Your trials have just begun.  My children will be reminded of my love through my discipline.  I will not spare my rod and my discipline will hurt, but always remember, you are my child and always will be.

My child, forsake those who speak without thinking.  Leave alone those who would yell and shout over me rather than listen to my words.  Read my letters.  Call me just to say hello.  Do not allow yourself to go in the way of your siblings.  My children should not be divided.  If my children are divided, then my enemy will seek to destroy them.  They are my children and always will be.

The words I have spoken are true and right.  Did I not destroy those in Laodicea as I told to them so long ago?  Have my words ever fallen upon the deaf and not healed them?  Has not my touch restored eyesight to the blind?  Have I not already broken the chains of slavery and freed you from them?  Have I not already said, “IT IS FINISHED?”

Now I have instructions for you to do.  They are not new instructions but reminders of what I have already commanded.  Restore your brothers and sisters by showing them the love I have shown you.  Refrain from speaking what you want but give them the silence they deserve.  Was I not silent before my accusers?  In the same way, you should be silent and your silence will bring them to repentance.  No longer march in the street but share my message of hope and love with everyone.  Listen to my commands and do what I have asked.  You are my child and always will be.

Never forget my love for you.  Never forget I died and rose again for you.  Remember that my love for you is unexplainable, unimaginable and unforgettable.  I love you with my inmost being.  All I ask is for you to return that love by spending time with me.  Read my words and call on my name.  I will answer, even if my enemies try to hinder me.  Do not listen to the countless voices in your head but listen for my voice.  My sheep know my voice and follow me.  You are my child and always will be.

I love you and will return shortly.  Do not fret or be dismayed because my return will happen, even if others deny it.  When I come, I will bring you home and we will spend eternity laughing, working, walking and talking.  There will be no more pain or suffering.  I am building a place for your, if it weren’t so, I would have told you.  Let your focus be on me and not the circumstances surrounding you.  This is a temporary dwelling, a temporary home.  Your ultimate home is with me.

I love you and desire only good things for you.  As you obey the small things I commanded, then larger responsibilities will come.  Until that time, remember, you are my child and always will be.

In love,

Jesus Christ (The Risen Savior)

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.

The Disrespect of Our Disillusion


Tom sat with his head in his open, sweaty hands.  How could he have done this?  What prevailed inside his mind that would allow him to do such a heinous act?  He decided to pour a drink to calm his nerves.  He got up and opened the oldest bottle of scotch he could find.  As he poured himself a double shot, the bottle chattered against the glass.  His hands could not stay still.  His mind raced with thoughts of anger toward himself.  “How could you have done this”, he thought.  “What was it that brought you this far away from reality?”

In the other room, a young lady walked in with a smile on her face and his shirt on her torso.  She graced herself over, grabbed the glass from his hand and took a sip of the scotch.  A kiss from her was placed on his cheek with these words, “That was really special”.  He tried to muster a smile, but could not as he knew he betrayed his love, his wife and the woman before him wasn’t her.

Every decision we make, every word we speak and every thought we think, has a consequence.  Whether good or bad, every action, work or thought has a reaction, a consequence.  We may not see it at the time, but be rest assured, a consequence is there, ready to peak it’s head, like a viper when it is about to strike.

Recently, I have been an observer of social media and news agencies.  I have cautiously not opened myself to a specific political view, social movement or radical divide.  Day by day, I have seen many people, good people, begin the process of drawing a hypothetical line in the sand declaring where they stand and what they believe.  Whether it is about which political candidate you like or whomever lives matter, many of us are going out of our way to declare what we believe to be the truth.  We have been convinced of our reality no matter how disillusioned we are.

This disillusionment has caused us to become a divided nation.  A nation where all conflicting  testimonies are correct, truth has become irrelevant and division among people groups are growing at a rapid pace.  Conflict is on the rise while love is declining into extinction.  All over the news and social media we see the results of this lack of love and increase of hatred and rebellion.  Many have taken to the street to protest in ways that breaks out in violence, fist shaking and gnashing of our teeth.  So how did we get here?  What caused us to be in this global predicament?  Was it a specific people group, ideology or is it human nature to destroy oneself?

Both Christian and Atheist, Buddhist and Islamic, Jew and Greek, have bought into this disillusionment, making each other vulnerable to prejudice and exposure.  We all have allowed our society to fall into an illness that can be likened to terminal cancer.  If we do not turn away from what we have become, we will ultimately bring ourselves into the chasm of death and be buried in the annals of history lost.

Unfortunately, most will exclude this writing as nothing more than someone who is disgruntled or upset with others behaviors without looking at themselves.  Let me make this disclaimer.  What I am bringing up has nothing to do with you or someone else.  It has to do with us.  We are the problem.  All of us are feeding the beast of this culture.  We all are to blame.  No matter our background, no matter our skin color, no matter who we think we are, we are all to blame, including me.

History has shown that when a nation is divided, then that same nation falls at the hands of others not of the same mindset.  Our own history shows how divided we were but the declaration of United We Stand was the war cry for change.  Today that war cry has gone unheard and ignored.  We have become the nightmare of countries and the falsehood of hatred.   Change is inevitable but it doesn’t have to be negative.  A positive change can happen, but it cannot start with us.  It cannot start with any other person from any other nation.  It can only happen when we reserve ourselves to allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our lives.

“…we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit,[b] as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth…” – Colossians 1:4-6 (NKJV)

It is the Gospel that changes lives.  It is the Gospel that bears fruit in our lives.  Only the Gospel can change our hearts and minds to unity and progress.  Because we have forsaken the Gospel, we have forsaken our Creator.  Because we have forsaken the Gospel, our lives are deteriorating into the very pit of Hell.  We have allowed sin to overtake our lives and become our slave master.  We have forsaken the freedom of loving others the way Jesus Christ loves us.  So what is sin compared to salvation in Jesus Christ?

Sin is the chain maker.  Salvation is the chain breaker.  Sin binds us to things.  Salvation frees us.  Sin tells us we are worthless.  Salvation tells us we are worth more than we realize.  Sin leads to death.  Salvation leads to life eternal.

No matter how you feel about society, no matter how you feel about the current social, economic or political environment, sin is the reason we are where we are today.  It has been used by Satan to ensure that our lives are chained to the slavery and division.  Sin has placed in our hearts that some lives matter while others do not.  Sin has told us that one person is a liar and the other is a scam artist.  Sin informed us that one group of people are to blame for the ills of our society.  Let me make sure I am very clear.  Satan is using our sinful lives to bind us, destroy us and ultimately convince us to reject our Creator.

In the words of the famous theologian Francis Schaeffer “How then shall we live?”

“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will [i]behave properly toward outsiders and [j]not be in any need.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

“19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” – Matthew 28:19-20

These two passages show us what our lives are really about.  These passages show us that our goal is to live a quiet life, mind our own business and work with our hands.  We are to be productive, kind, loving and ready to serve others.  We are to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ by our testimony.  We are to make disciples, not division.  We are to do the work that has been commanded to us.  Did you notice that?  Both of these were commanded.  They were not suggestions.  These are things we are to do.

What I will say next is for those who claim to the servants of Jesus Christ….

WAKE UP CHURCH!  We are not doing what God has commanded us to do.  We do not love others when we bash our government leaders and others via social media.  We are not living how God commanded us to live when we shout from the mountain top about our rights and forget to love those who are lost.  We are living in sin if we do not do the things commanded us.

Our goal in this life is to spread the love of Jesus Christ and make disciples.  That’s it!  We may have the “American right” to speak our peace, but is that the way Jesus handled it?  He didn’t go after the political leaders, he went after those who claimed to be His.  He toppled the tables and drove the money changers away because they had no respect for where God’s people gathered.  He didn’t go after the Roman government or voice his discontent with Caesar.  He simply served others, drew people to Himself, showed them compassion and reprimanded the religious leaders who were enslaving their own people with rules and regulations.

The good news about all of this, is we still have time to turn to God.  We NEED to turn back to God and repent of our lack of love.  We NEED to repent of our sin of division and disrespect.  This country CANNOT change unless Jesus Christ is involved and this country CANNOT change unless WE (the Church) repent of our sin and change how we do things.

If we (the Church) do not change, our country will run the high risk of extinction.  The United States is not mentioned in Scripture nor is it implied.  The United States is not the center of this world but God has used us to further His Gospel all over the world.  His Gospel is the center of all creation, not us.

I hope you understand the tears I shed for us.  I pray that we all change our current travels on the wide path (which leads to destruction) and turn toward the narrow path (which leads to life eternal).  Only Jesus Christ and His Gospel will change us.  Please join me in repenting of our sin and making a positive difference by refraining from passionate division and disrespect.

May God have mercy and grace on us as we all seek to change the direction of this country toward Him.  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.