Creator of the Eclipse


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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless and encourage someone today.

*Psalm 8[a]

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

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

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

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

*Taken from the NIV

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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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless and encourage someone today.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you?” he asked.

“Up here.  Look”, I exclaimed.

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 44:5-7

Through you we push back our enemies;

Through your name we trample our foes.

I put no trust in my bow,

my sword does not give me victory;

But you give us victory over our enemies,

you put our adversaries to shame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless and encourage someone today.

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is your greatest passion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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