God’s Direction – 1st Place!


Most of us desire to know God’s direction for our lives.  We want to know, what, how and where to do the will of God.  In our prayers, we ask God to open the doors of opportunity and close the doors He does not desire for us.  When we read Scripture, we long to hear from God to determine the exact direction He desires for us.  However, when we do not hear or see the direction we think God has for us, how do we react?  Do we get frustrated and stop praying?  Do we get angry at God and “take some time off” from our relationship with Him?  Or do we stop and ask ourselves, why is it that God isn’t speaking?  Is there something in our lives that He wants us to focus on before giving us the direction we long for?

Thousands of years ago, Israel had been taken captive by Babylon.  God had ordained this as Israel was living in sin.  After some time, Persia then overtook Babylon and took the Israelites captive.  During that time, Nehemiah (the Israelite cup bearer to the king – and prophet) saw Jerusalem in shambles.  He prays to God about this and God moves the heart of the king so that Nehemiah can go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

During the process of rebuilding, there were many who opposed the Israelites from rebuilding the walls.  God continued to move the heart of the king and under Nehemiah’s direction, the walls were built and completed.  Then more opposition came.  And this is where Haggai, the prophet, comes in.

Haggai was given the task, by God, to motivate the Israelites into working on the temple.  The Israelites were scared at first and then became comfortable with their surroundings.  Over time, they saw some success and began building and taking care of their homes.  Yet, even as they worked on their own homes, the temple was still in shambles.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’  Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” – Haggai 1:2-4

Many times, as new believers, we are excited to be in this new relationship with our Creator.  We confess our sins, read the Scripture – looking for His direction and we spend time in prayer (even if we don’t understand how to pray, we still spend the time trying).  As time goes on, we see the successes of focusing our attention on our relationship with our Creator.  Maybe, you received an unexpected raise or a new job (that you were praying for) came your way.  You begin to see how God operates and the rewards you get for being obedient to Him.  But then…. you get comfortable.  Without realizing it, your prayer life begins to wane.  Reading Scripture becomes more of a chore than of a pleasure and you become very comfortable right where you are.  This is where the problem begins.

You notice that life isn’t all that exciting anymore.  Yeah you’re a Christian, but so what.  You go to church once a week and pick up your Bible on occasion.  You pray at meals or when you have a problem, but other than that, your prayer life is eh.  Suddenly, one day, you begin to notice that the job God had provided to you no longer seems to be that exciting anymore.  It’s okay, becomes the thought process for everyday living.  So what happened?  Why has life become so boring, so mundane?  Simply put, it is because we forgot about our relationship with God.

The Israelites were getting comfortable.  But they also wondered why things weren’t going the way they thought it would or should.  Have you ever worked so hard, yet you feel like the results are just mediocre?  You work and work and work, and in some cases in ministry, only to never be satisfied or see the fruit of your labor?  You read and pray for months only to never be satisfied with what you are reading or hearing?  This is what the Israelites were doing.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.  You have planted much, but harvested little.  You eat, but never have enough.  You drink, but never have your fill.  You put on clothes, but are not warm.  You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” – Haggai 1:5-6

Because Israel had not put God first, God allowed them to never be fully satisfied.  Have you ever felt, you are never satisfied?  I know I have.  And as a child of God, us never being satisfied should be warning sign to us.  Not being satisfied means we have placed God second and other things first.  We have allowed the cares of this world to supersede that which God commanded… “I am the Lord your God.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  In essence, we place an idol where God should be.

When we place God second, it is not to say we don’t believe in Him, but we say through our actions, we can do better.  We tell the Creator of everything that we know more and can handle whatever it is we are going through.  Let me encourage you today by saying, none of us have a handle on our lives.  None of us really understand what we go through and why we go through it.  Our minds are great at lying to us, convincing us that we do not need anyone.  When we place God second, we shouldn’t wonder why life isn’t going well.

Placing God first in everything isn’t easy.  We have a tendency to work very hard for little reward.  But when we place God first, we still work hard but God gives the increase.  We plant the seed of His Salvation into the lives of others by loving them and telling them about Jesus Christ.  We water the seed of His Salvation when we go through the hardships with others, praying for them when they cannot.  But we cannot harvest what is not there.  Only God gives the increase.  Only God makes His Seed into a living plant.  Only God can grow the fruit.  We benefit from the harvest, but God does most of the work.

Unfortunately, we have a desire to try and force the fruit to grow.  We water more.  We add fertilizer over and over again.  We place lamps around the plant on the cloudy days.  We work and work and work, only to find ourselves exhausted and dissatisfied.  We then blame God, others and even ourselves when things don’t go the way we desire.

So how do we get out from underneath this pitfall?  How do we place God first?

Well that’s for next time.  Until then, God bless and encourage someone today.

Advertisements

Hidden in the Shadow(s)


Deuteronomy 11:19 New International Version (NIV)

19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

There are many times in our lives, where God teaches us something about Himself that is profound yet very simple.  It is in these profoundly simplistic moments, that God them turns to us and tells us to teach our children about these lessons.  Today, I received one of those lessons and am passing this along to you (as well as my children).

One of the hardest things we can do as human beings is give our love, our life to our pets.  Why would this be considered hard?  Well, we see this helpless creature looking at us with big eyes and unconditional love.  Our hearts are moved by this and we adopt them.  Over time, we learn that this pet needs to be trained.  Many sleep nights are spent comforting this new addition, giving them the love, attention and discipline they need to become productive members of our family.  They learn the necessity of either using a wee-wee pad, litter box or the outdoors for their bathroom needs.  They learn to share their toys and play in a way that is beneficial to both human and pet alike.

As time goes on, we experience the joy and frustration of helping an animal who can’t communicate the way we do.  We guess and what the animal may be asking for.  We discipline them when they do something like bit or scratch the furniture.  We care for them, we love them and in return, they love us with an unconditional love.

However, in the last days of their lives, we also have to make that most hideous call…whether to allow them to pass on or not.  This decision is never an easy one.  The pet has become a member of the family.  They have experienced joy and happiness, sickness and health and yet, they continue to love you all the more and in return, you love them all the more.

Today, I had to make that hard decision.  But I also get to share with you the joys and lessons learned from my first cat, Shadow.

About a decade ago, my wife was putting out the garbage.  She opened the garbage can and out jumped this black cat.  Although my wife learned she was allergic to cats, she felt compassion on her and wanted to do something.  She got bread, made some small wads of bread balls and tossed them to her.

When I came home, I learned about this but was very hesitant as I was taught, “once you begin feeding the cat, they keep coming back.”  Instead of forgetting she was there, we decided to pursue her.  Shadow didn’t want to come near to us.  She hid in the shadows of the bushes.  This was why we called her Shadow.  She was scared.  She didn’t know who she could trust.  She had no intentions on pursuing a relationship with us.  But we had intentions on having a relationship with her.  We chose her to be our first pet.  And because we chose her, we pursued that relationship with her.  Which leads me to my first lesson from God….  We didn’t pursue or choose God.  It was God who chose and pursued us.

Just as we decided to pursue her, God decided to pursue us first.  In Ephesians 1 we read, “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”  In Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a lost sheep and how the shepherd goes out to look for it.  In John, Jesus then claims, “I am the good shepherd.”  It is Jesus who pursues the sheep.  It is Jesus who chose us.

Just as Shadow was terrified of us, we too can be terrified when Jesus pursues us.  What is He like?  Will He do things that hurt me?  Will He actually take care of me?  It is then that Jesus throws us the small balls of bread…His Word.  We smell His Word.  We play with His Word.  But it isn’t until we ingest His Word that we feel the nourishment He wants to give to us.

Well, Shadow continued to hide in the shadow of the bushes.  But after weeks of throwing her food, we began to lay the food down at the bottom of our stoop.  We could sit on the stoop, while she fed on the nourishment we provided.  As she ate, we could talk to her.  Tell her that everything was going to be okay.  Allow her to get used to our voices.  We never forced ourselves on her, we just patiently waited for her to begin to trust us.  Why would she trust us?  Because we cared for her.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”  Peter also writes, “…cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”  We love because God loved us first.  Even though we are scared, we can trust Him and place all of life’s worries on Him because He cares for us.  Just as we never forced ourselves on Shadow, God never, and I mean never, forces Himself on us.  He shows us He loves us by giving us a little nourishment and talking with us, even though we are scared of Him.

Well, after a while, Shadow disappeared.  We were concerned, but realized that maybe God just wanted us to learn these two lessons so that we can share the Gospel easier and softer with others.  About a month later, I opened the door to leave and viola…there was Shadow.  What had happened to her?  Where did she go?  Did someone else take care of her?  We had no idea until one of our neighbors saw us with her and said, “You have the mama cat?”  Whaaaaat?

As it turned out, Shadow was pregnant and had four kittens.  The vet who lived on our block had taken her after she gave birth and took care of all of her medical conditions.  What the vet didn’t realize was that he just answered a prayer of mine.  You see, I had prayed that if Shadow was to be our cat, that somehow, He would have to take care of all that we cannot take care of financially.  Everything we had prayed for was covered.

This was the third lesson we learned.  God takes care of us, not just partially, but fully.  Everything.  All of it.  Every last worry.   God takes care of it all.  This was why Peter was so confident when he said, “cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.”  Peter knew that God would take care of it all.  Just as the vet covered all of the debt we could not handle, Jesus covered all of our debt with His death on the cross and resurrection.  We could never repay the debt we owed to God, therefore, Jesus covered our debt…all of our debt by sacrificing Himself for us.

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” – John 10:17-18

Jesus gave His life up.  How much love did that take?  I know I don’t even come close to that much love.  But because He first loved us, He allowed His death to happen.  And because He has so much love for us, He died for us but He also rose for us as well.  Jesus took care of what needed to be done fully.

There have been so many lessons we’ve learned from Shadow.  It was in this light that when the decision to allow her to pass on came today, I didn’t take it lightly.  I wept.  I had just asked God, last night to give me the knowledge and wisdom necessary to make the hard decision, if it were to come.  Today, God made it very easy.  When the vet called me, she let me know that there was a mass behind her one eye, masses in her lungs and possibly more throughout her body.  The doctor told me that although Shadow never complained about the pain, there was evidence that she was in pain.  Therefore, with great comfort, I gave her the task of allowing Shadow’s life to end peacefully.  It was then that my final Shadow lesson came…  When our time comes for our lives to end, how will we go out?

Will we trust the God, who has cared for us fully, to end our lives the way He sees fit?  Will we just stay silent, never complaining about our pain and suffering, knowing the One who takes care of us can fully make that decision based on what is best for us?

Shadow can never be replaced.  She was my first pet, my first cat and my first furry friend that gave me a great insight as to the mind of God and how He operates.

I hope you find comfort in this.  I hope that you will trust God for the hard times.  Share God’s lessons with your children.  Share them with others, that they may take comfort in them.

When our time comes for us to move from this world into the next, how will we respond?  Maybe, we can respond like Shadow….loving our Caretaker, never complaining about our pain but always trusting that our Caretaker will make the BEST decisions for us.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Responding to Evil


It is the middle of winter.  The pine trees have snow covered tips.  The ground is filled with the beauty of snow.  You are walking your dog and he is enjoying bouncing up and down in the white fluffiness of his surroundings.  As your walk ends, you enter into your warm home.  The radiators are teeming with beautiful heat.  You remove your jacket and snow covered boots.  The dog runs in circles showing his love towards being outside.  Your wife asks you if you want something hot to drink.  With a smile on your face and warmth in your heart, you acknowledge the desire for hot chocolate.  As your wife prepares your warm drink, you lean over to give her a kiss.  Then it happens.  ZAP!  The biggest electrical shock that can happen between two people occurs.  You both yell out “OUCH” and try to enjoy each other from a distance.

We shouldn’t be surprised at that story.  It is a little known fact that in the winter time, there are more electrical shocks due to static than other times of the year.  The air is dry.  The friction between warm clothes and our skin, combined with low humidity, creates an environment that can become…you know…a bit shocking.

There are times, we will experience things that hurt us.  Sometimes the hurt is small and sometimes the hurt is much larger.  But should we be surprised when the hurt comes?  Should we be shocked when the world does things that not only hurt us but hurt others who cannot speak for themselves?  Here is what the apostle Peter told churches throughout Asia during his time in ministry…

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.  Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” – 1 Peter 2:12-13 (NLT)

So where did Peter come up with this idea of not being shocked?  Why would he tell others that what is happening in and around their world should be of no surprise?  Here is what Peter heard from Jesus…

“Remember what I told you: A servant is not greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” – John 15:20-22 (NIV)

Peter was simply passing along Jesus’ message to the churches.  Peter had been through a lot.  First, he left his livelihood to follow Jesus, said some things he shouldn’t have, denied Jesus, was restored to Jesus, learned to overcome his prejudices and was jailed and beaten for the Gospel.  Many of Peter’s experiences were hurtful ones, but not shocking ones.

We too should not be shocked when the world does things that are against the teachings of Jesus.  In fact, we should expect it.  And when they do these things, most likely, we or someone we know will be hurt by it.  We will feel the pain of suffering in those moments, but what should our focus be?  Should we focus on the disobedient and evil acts of the world?  Or, should we focus our attention somewhere else?

Jesus told his disciples, “They will treat you this way because of my name…”  This is why Peter said, “Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

It sounds contradictory but it is true.  As we see the entire world tumbling into chaos and disrepair, we should be glad.  Not because of the problems, but because we know that once this world ends, those of us who know Jesus Christ as Savior will be spending eternity with Him.  No more suffering or pain.  No more sickness or death.   Our gladness, our joy does not come from the circumstances around us or the experiences we may face.  It does not come from the ability to do things we never thought we could do.  Our joy and gladness comes from Jesus Christ.  Our gladness and joy in Jesus Christ allows us to focus on His work, on His end results.  It is Jesus who lets us see that whatever happens in this world, it does not affect the final outcome.

Does this mean we need to shy away from being involved?  Certainly not!  In fact, it means we need to be involved all the more.  We are a light on the hill.  We are salt given by God to the earth.  Therefore, our involvement in speaking up for righteousness and justice is still needed.  Voting for those who stand for what God says is right is more important now than it ever has been before.  But as we do those things and get involved in those arenas, we need to remember that our focus is still sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  That is our primary goal.

We may serve in politics, but we serve God all the more.  We may work in public service, but we work by sharing the Gospel with those who are hurting.  We may be the owner of a business, but it is God who owns that business and expects us to use that business for His glory.  No matter what we do, no matter how we are hurt, we must remember Jesus’ words…”It is finished.”

Jesus completed the work we could not.  Jesus saves, we do not.  Jesus knows what is going on in the world, even if we do not.  Therefore, we should not be shocked or surprised about how the world is rebelling because Jesus is not surprised or shocked.

Instead of focusing on the issues that hurts, let’s focus on the Savior that gives life.  Let us all serve our country the best way we can by focusing our efforts on not just standing for what is right, but by serving others with our actions, showing them the love of Christ.

Let’s all do what is right, by sharing the Gospel and showing the Gospel through our loving actions toward a lost and dying world.  And if the entire world decides not to respond any longer to the Gospel, don’t be shocked, be glad, for the Savior is on His way.

God bless and encourage someone today.

No Child is a Mistake


I have prayed about this.  I have struggled with my thoughts about how to approach this subject.  To the best of my ability, I am trying to be more encouraging however, my thoughts toward this subject are solid and I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that they are correct.  I just pray that as you read further, you will understand that this subject matter is a “slap in the face” towards God and His message of Hope in Jesus Christ.

In the year 2000, the former video rental store, Blockbuster, was given an opportunity by another company to expand Blockbuster to online video renting.  Blockbuster laughed at the opportunity and a short time later, the company Netflix became one of the largest online video rental sources of our time.  I am sure that those within the Blockbuster management team didn’t laugh after their company closed and saw Netflix thrive in this new venture.  What a mistake by Blockbuster.

In life, we all make mistakes.  We say things we shouldn’t say.  We forget to do things we should do.  We do things we shouldn’t.  We make mistakes.  We don’t mean to make those mistakes but we do.  Throughout our entire lives, we will make mistakes.  Maybe not the same ones over and over again, but at the very least we will make mistakes one time to learn from them.

As a child, I was taught that even though we make mistakes, we still must suffer the consequences of our mistakes.  As I got older, I was taught that even though we may make mistakes, there is a God who loves us, who cares for us and who wants to forgive us of those mistakes.  However, even though I may be forgiven, I still will suffer the consequences to the decisions I have made, even if it was a mistake.

Unfortunately, our society doesn’t believe that we need to suffer the consequences to our mistakes.  Our society has proven over and over again, that they believe we can make mistakes and bury them.  The current government shutdown is proof of that.  Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C. have voiced their distain over each other’s position on border security.  Yet despite both sides not budging on what they want, over 800,000 people are either working without pay or have been asked to stay home.  Meanwhile, members of Congress (both House and Senate) continue to get paid because it is listed to do so in the Constitution.  Therefore, as our citizens suffer the consequences of Washington’s disagreements, those who are making the decisions continue to get paid and believe that they will not suffer consequences as well.  Why?  Because they continue to be re-elected.

Although I have friends and family that are majorly affected by the current government shutdown, there is another subject that needs more attention and the current liberal media refuses to give light to it and continually denies the consequences of it…abortion.

Recently, New York State Legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have passed a revision to a law concerning women’s rights in relation to abortion and contraception.  I have read over the revised law and have concluded that the majority of this revision is mainly about abortion rights and little to do with contraception.  (You may want to read it for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion.)

Why this is so important is not the fact that it was passed but the lack of recognition to the consequences of passing that law.  In the past, the law stated that an abortion could not be done once the baby was 24-weeks (in utero) or older.  It also stated that there were consequences, including jail time for those who were caught taking part in abortions once this time frame past.  Now, the revised law says that those who are qualified to do abortions (not just doctors) can do so past the 24-week deadline and no further timeframe was given.  This basically means that whomever, New York State deems worthy to do abortions can do so up to delivery.  As long as the baby is in utero, they can do their horrific and barbaric procedure.  And they can do this so long as they deem the mother and / or baby are at risk of death.  Hold that thought for a moment.

In addition, New York State Legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo also removed any and all reference to potential jail time to anyone who executes abortions.  All security a woman had in the decision making process has been taken away.  Here is why….

Let’s say a couple meets in a bar one night.  They have a few drinks and decide to get to know each other a little bit more.  One thing leads to another and viola…a one-night stand.  A couple of months later, the woman begins getting sick.  She goes to the doctor to find out she’s pregnant.  She breaks down in tears and wonders what her options are.  Her doctor says one option is to have an abortion.  However, she isn’t sure what she wants to do.  After a couple more months, the same woman gets into a car accident and enters a coma.  A week or so later, the woman wakes up and notices something is wrong, she no longer feels her baby moving.  She asks what happened and the doctor says that he had to abort the baby because her health was in danger.  Although, this is a made up story, the consequence of the revised abortion law would allow this to happen, even if the mother does not know about it.  The wording states…

§ 2599-BB. ABORTION.  1.  A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER LICENSED, CERTIFIED, OR AUTHORIZED UNDER TITLE EIGHT OF THE EDUCATION LAW, ACTING WITHIN HIS OR HER LAWFUL SCOPE OF PRACTICE, MAY PERFORM AN ABORTION WHEN, ACCORDING TO THE PRACTITIONER’S REASONABLE AND GOOD FAITH PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT BASED ON THE FACTS OF THE PATIENT’S CASE: THE PATIENT IS WITHIN TWENTY-FOUR WEEKS FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF PREGNANCY, OR THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF FETAL VIABILITY, OR THE ABORTION IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THEPATIENT’S LIFE OR HEALTH.

Again, in most cases, the woman is making the decision on this, but now New York State has allowed others to make that decision for the woman if the “health care practitioner” deems it necessary.  Not only has the time-frame been removed but also the consequences of executing an abortion.

Now, I am not shocked by this decision, but I am obviously bothered by it.  I am not shocked because New York State government officials have proven their loyalty and devotion to sin.  They have openly and proudly displayed their satisfaction to rebelling against God.  In fact, the Empire State Building will be lit pink in order to commemorate this momentous evil occasion.  They are proudly wearing the badge of sin and shame.  They no longer hide their sin but place it in the open forum of daily living.  But why does this matter?  Why should we be concerned about this open display of sin?

First, God destroys those who are open and proud of their sin.  Sodom, Gomorrah, Babylon, Persians…all of these empires were proud to display their sin in the light.  History has taught us that each of these empires fell not because of economic problems or natural causes, rather they were destroyed because of their open display of sin.

Both Sodom and Gomorrah were known to be violent towards women and outsiders.  In Genesis 19, you can read about how the men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have sex with “men” who came to tell Lot to leave or be destroyed.  Here is what the angels said to Lot…

“For we are about to destroy this city completely.  The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.” – Genesis 19:13 (NLT)

 “God will turn the sins of evil people back on them.  He will destroy them for their sins.  The Lord our God will destroy them.” – Psalm 94:23

There will come a time when God decides that the sin of a nation is so great that He will send for something or someone to destroy it.  Fortunately for us, that time has not yet come.  For if that time had come, this article would not have been written.

Okay, now that we have an understanding of what God does to those who are open and proud of their sin, what does God also say about children?

“Children are a gift from the Lord; for they are a reward from Him.” – Psalm 127:3

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” – Matthew 19:14

And what about those children who are not yet born?

“You guided my conception and formed me in the womb.” – Job 10:10

When Mary’s cousin, who was pregnant with John the Baptist saw Mary, she said, “When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.” – Luke 1:44

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13

God views life from the point of conception.  It is God who guides the man and woman to marriage.  It is God who guides the sperm to meet the egg.  It is God who personally molds and makes the baby into the image He chooses.  The baby, both in utero and after birth are a gift from God.  So let’s look at this from a slightly different viewpoint…

If God sees life beginning at conception, then abortion rebels against God by saying conception doesn’t matter.

If God forms the baby, then abortion must destroy the very creation God is actively doing, therefore, it is murder.

If God has declared that He is intimately involved in creating children, then abortion actively defies God by showing distain towards His creation.

You see, abortion is more than what the world is telling us.  The world says it’s about women’s rights.  God says it’s about life He creates.  The world says that a child is not a child until delivery.  God clearly says that life begins at conception.  The world says they are proud to do what they want, when they want and how they want and without consequences.  God says that He will one day get fed up with our sin and destroy us as He sees fit.

My plea with you today, is this…please, please, please, stop this madness and repent.  Vote for those who will stand for what God stands for.  Voice your distain towards openly sinful practices and flaunting but do it in the most loving way possible.

Continue to stand for what is right.  Continue to vote in the right way.  Continue to plea with God to hold off His judgement against those who openly defy Him.  Continue to pray for our leaders and especially those in New York for their salvation, for their minds to be opened to what God says about life and for them to see the coming judgement upon all of us, if this behavior continues.

I do not know how or when God will decide to say, “Enough is enough”.  All I know is that in the meantime, I will continue to share the love and hope of life in Jesus Christ as long as there is breath in my lungs.

It is time for us Christians to stand together.  It is time for us Christians to show our rulers that God’s law is much higher than their laws.  It is time for us Christians to get out from behind our church walls and meeting places and enter into the political realm.  As long as we keep God first in our lives and do what He calls us to do, we will not hear the trumpets of judgement, rather we will hear the soft voice of God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Come and enter into my rest.”

That is what I desire to hear one day.  If God is for us, who cares who is against us.  He will protect us, He will save us and we will live with Him forever.  We need to stand for those who cannot.  We need to feed those who are hungry.  We are to clothe those who need clothing.  This is the action of the Christian which shows the world how loving and patient God is.  It is acting upon our faith that shows the world that God is in control and He desires to have a relationship with us.

I am praying for the New York Legislature and Governor.  I am praying that one day soon; God will touch their hearts so that they become His children and see life the way He sees it…beginning at conception, precious in this world, and eternal with Him.  Will you join me?  Will you act in a way that is worthy of our calling?  I pray that you do what God has called you to do.  Don’t delay.  God won’t delay His judgement forever.

God bless and encourage someone today.

The OUCH Moment


Imagine for a moment, that you are going through your closet and find a piece of clothing you haven’t worn in a while.  You begin by looking at it and imagine the good times you had with it on.  You decide that you want to have a good day, so you try that piece of clothing on and uh oh…it doesn’t fit any longer.  You suck in your gut…no good…it still doesn’t fit.  After 10 minutes asking yourself question after question you convince yourself the piece of clothing must have shrunk over time.  Then it hits you.  The clothing didn’t shrink…you grew… and not the way you wanted to.  OUCH!

Children have their ouch moment also.  They are happily playing or riding their bicycle, when WHAM!… they fall down and scrape their knee and elbow.  As a loving parent, you run over to them, pick them up and tell them that their alright as they scream/cry, “IT HURTS…”  You comfort them and bring them inside so that you can clean up their wounds.  You sit them on a chair, break out the ointment and Band-Aids.  They see this and scream, “DON’T TOUCH ME!  IT STILL HURTS!”  You know that their wounds need to be cleaned, so you carefully and lovingly begin to clean their wounds as they scream, “OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!  YOU’RE HURTING ME!”

We all have our OUCH moments.  We all have times where we are shocked by our circumstances.  We are shocked that we’ve gained weight.  OUCH!  We are shocked that we are in debt and are having a hard time getting out of it.  OUCH!  We are shocked that our relationships aren’t working out the way we expected them to.  OUCH!  What is your OUCH moment?

As time goes on and we have these moments more and more, we begin to start asking ourselves, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Does God hate me?” or “Why can’t my circumstances change?”  We begin to wonder if everyone is out to get us or if this world has nothing good in it.  As we question, we begin to become anxious.  Our anxiety turns into anger and our anger turns into regret.  If only we had done this or that in our past.  If only we had not said in anger the things we said to the ones we lost.  If only we hadn’t done this or that.  If only.  If only.

If only becomes the chant of regret.  Regret becomes the feeling of sadness and sadness becomes depression.  And once we’re depressed, we have a tendency to isolate ourselves, convincing ourselves that we don’t need anyone and no one needs us.  In the end, we become lonely, heartbroken and hurt-filled people.  All of this begins with how we handle the OUCH moment when it comes.

Yesterday, I had an OUCH moment.  I wanted to get a new suit jacket as my old ones appear to be “shrinking”.  As I was in the store, I couldn’t find any jacket that fit.  Even the size I thought I was didn’t seem to fit properly.  I then, might I say reluctantly, picked up the next larger size and tried it on.  Unfortunately, it fit.  Now I could have blamed all of the clothing manufacturers for improperly manufacturing every single jacket, but the OUCH moment hit me like a ton of bricks.  It wasn’t the jacket that that was shrinking, I was just getting larger.

How do we handle the OUCH moments?  We could stew in the thought process which leads to regret and depression.  We could get angry or disappointed in ourselves and vow to change.   We could reach out to our friends and family for support and ask them what they think we should do.  We could cry and scream to God, asking Him why He is allowing this to happen.  But no matter how we think we would handle it, there is one thing that remains…this is our turning point.

When our OUCH moments happen, our turning point begins.  What is a turning point?  Well according to the dictionary, a turning point is a moment in time at which a decisive change in a specific situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.  It is the place where we are, desiring for a change, while looking at the place we need to be.  But how do we get there?  How do we proceed so that the results we desire are the results we receive?  What if I told you that giving up was your answer to the OUCH moments?

I am not talking about not changing.  On the contrary.  I am talking about changing during the process of giving up.  Notice I said, ‘during the process of’.  Giving up does not mean you don’t do anything.  Giving up simply means not bogging your mind down with needless worry and anxiety over situations you may or may not have the power to change.  The giving up process allows our OUCH moments to become more like praise moments.  In fact, giving up was exactly what Jesus asked his disciples to do.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” – Matthew 16-24-25 (NIV)

First, Jesus said if we want to be his disciples, we must first deny ourselves.  What exactly does that mean?  The word deny here implies that we give up our own interests and goals for someone else’s interest and goals.  We no longer live for ourselves, but for someone else.

Second, Jesus tells his disciples that if they want to have life, they will only find it if it is lost because of Him.  This one is a bit more interesting.  Literally speaking, Jesus tells his disciples that whoever wants to save their life (live for themselves) will lose it.  The word for lose here is to be completely destroyed.  Think about that.  Jesus tells them, if you want to live for yourself, your life will be completely destroyed.  OUCH!

This message is completely contrary to what we are being taught in our society.  Our society says:

  • If you want to live a good life, have a positive mental attitude.
  • To change your body, you must think positively.
  • As you live your life, go for it! Only you can change you.
  • The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new (Socrates).

If we were to change these sayings to reflect what Jesus told His disciples here is how it may read:

  • If you want to live a good life, live for Me.
  • Don’t worry about changing your body, rather transform your mind.
  • As you live your life, follow Me! Only I can change you.
  • The secret of change is to focus all of your energy on Me.

Do you see the difference?  Our society says, “It’s all about you.”, while Jesus said, “It’s all about Me.”

To combat the negative feelings of our OUCH moments, the only thing we need to do is focus on Jesus Christ, His goals and desires and do what He has called us to do.  So what has Jesus called us to do?

First, He has called us to tell others about Him and what He has done for them.  In Matthew 28, Jesus first says, “Go and make disciples of all nations….”  Jesus wants us to share our lives with others focusing on sharing the Gospel.  It doesn’t matter if someone’s life changes from the worst to the best, if they don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  You could have lived the most positive life on this earth but if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, when this life ends and the next life begins, your life will be completely destroyed.  However, if you have that relationship with Jesus Christ and you focus your complete energy on sharing His message of salvation, then it matters not if people see your life as a failure.  What matters is that Jesus Christ sees you as His child.  When our focus in on ourselves, our lives will be completely destroyed.  When our focus is on Jesus Christ, our lives will be found.

Second, Jesus calls us to live a life that is different than everyone else’s.  Matthew 5 is typically called “The Beatitudes”.  It is the sermon Jesus spoke to help us live life differently than the rest of the world.  Jesus talks how we need to be like salt and light.  We need to shine His light and speak His tasty Word.  He speaks about how marriage is between one man and one woman, how God has joined them together and how God hates divorce, even though it was allowed.  He speaks on how if we look at someone with lust-filled eyes, we have committed adultery with them in our hearts.  Jesus confronted society’s allowances and ideals and tells us to life differently.  When we focus our lives on Him, we will live our lives differently than the rest of society.

Lastly, Jesus calls us to server others, even if they don’t appreciate us.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:44-45 (NIV)

”…and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave (servant) of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:44 (NASB)

As we serve others, it won’t all be peaches and cream.  There will be times, we are serving someone in some capacity only to gain their wrath of hatred and distain.  We will do everything right, yet the reaction of those we serve may be anger, hate-filled words or even physical attack.  This is where our OUCH moment becomes our praise moment.

When we focus all of our energy on Jesus Christ and His message, we no longer care about our life and its problems.  We praise Him even when life is difficult.  We praise Him even when others come against us.  We praise Him when we feel lonely.  We praise Him when we feel lost in the dark.  We praise Him because we love to praise Him.  Our OUCH moments can easily turn into PRAISE moments.  All we have to do is simply change our focus on us and place it on Him.  When we do that, our supernatural reaction is to praise Him.

Don’t allow your OUCH moments to bring you to a place of rejection, despair and depression.  Allow your OUCH moments to be praise moments.  If you gained weight and are saddened by it, then praise Him for giving you a healthy life.  If you are upset that someone lied about you, praise Him for knowing the truth about who you are.  If you are depressed because life seems against you, praise Him for giving you this life and ask Him how you can help others see His light.  Turn your OUCH moments into PRAISE moments and when you do, life will become more joyous than you can ever imagine.

God bless and encourage someone today.

Our disabilities, God’s provision


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless and encourage someone today.

From Perfection to Forgiveness


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

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

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

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

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

Perfection can be defined as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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