Life’s Challenges, God’s Opportunity


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

Have you ever had moments in your life, where you needed to cling onto a specific Bible verse?  Maybe you were diagnosed with cancer and God led you to Psalm 23.  Maybe you were depressed and thought there was no way out, then God led you to John 3.

No matter where we may be in this life, I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that God leads us to Bible verses which have permanent impact in our lives.  For me, it was Jeremiah 29:11.

I haven’t written in some time, so if you’ll allow, I’d like to explain why this verse has been so important in my life.

For the past few years I have been going to school, all the while working a full time job, raising a family and occasionally preaching.  Sounds like a lot, I know.  But so far, I’ve been able to handle it…mostly.

During this time, I have noticed that my attitude towards life (in general) has slowly declined.  Many times, I feel like King Solomon in Ecclesiastes when he writes, “Everything is meaningless.”  I have wondered time and time again, what am I doing and why am I doing it?

A few weeks ago, I heard a conference on RightNow Media.  In this conference, there was one Pastor who made a significant contribution to confirm certain views I recently held to.  His name is Dr. David Platt.

Dr. Platt had communicated how we need to have a desire to be completely enamored with Jesus Christ.  In everything we do, we must consider how it plays into what Jesus Christ is doing in and around our lives.  It is not the perspective of how I can get more out of Christ, but rather, how much more can I give to Christ.  It is about Jesus Christ and His mission.

He shared about his experience in South Korea, how large gatherings of believers came to pray before they began their day.  He explained that these Christians got up early every morning just to seek Christ for their day, so they could be obedient to Christ during their day.  This one message stirred in me a desire to re-evaluate all that I have been doing to ensure it is Christ-centered.

More recently, I am considering a very large life change for my family and I.  During our discussions, my wife reminded me that whatever we decide to do, we (more like I) must realize that not only is God in control, but it may be the very seed planted in someone’s life to bring them to the Gospel.

As we have been considering this, I have been praying asking for God to guide me.  In this Jeremiah 29:11 came into play, once again.  In this passage, God is telling Israel, that one day, they will reject Him.  They will go off on their own and suffer the consequences of their bad decisions.  However, God let them also know that one day, they would return to Him and He would then hear and answer their prayers.  In the midst of this God tells them, “I know the plans I have for you.”

I love how God uses the gentle reminders to bring us back into His path.  For me, He has used this passage over and over again to remind me that not only is He in control but He cares about us.

Many times, we read Jeremiah 29 and say to ourselves, “See Israel, there you go again..wandering…God’s judgement is just.”  But as I read this same passage, I think to myself how God must be vocalizing His love towards Israel.  It is as if I could hear Him proclaim, “Oh Israel, I know you are wandering, but I love you.  I love you so much, that I want you to know I have plans for you.”

The same holds true for us.  “Oh Joey, I know that you have wandered, but I still love you.  I love you so much, that I want you to know that I have plans for you.”  Jesus put it this way… “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Jesus lamented that Israel was not willing to allow His love for them to permeate into their lives.  Jesus used the gentle visual about a hen gathering her chicks.  Just as the hen wants to protect her young, so too Jesus wants to protect us.

Isn’t it good to know that no matter the life changing event, Jesus is there for us, desiring to protect us?  Isn’t it good to know that even as we go through the life changing events, Jesus has a plan for our lives?  But it isn’t just a plan.  It’s a plan to prosper us and give us a future!

So let’s think of it this way.  No matter what circumstances we may face.  No matter how our minds may be filled with every concern in this world.  No matter how physically inept we may be, Jesus has, not only a plan, but a plan to prosper us and give us a future!  How?  Well you might be surprised about what I am going to say next.

If our lives (our thoughts and actions in obedience) are enamored with Jesus Christ and we are focused on doing His will for our lives and we are actually obeying what He has called us to do, then our lives should and will reflect His desires.  Therefore, we can easily explain that our prospering future has to do with HIM, not us.

Does this mean we can become wealthy in this life?  Sure, but it can’t be our focus.  Does this mean we can be healthy in this life?  Sure, but if we aren’t healthy it doesn’t mean we are being disobedient.  Here is what Paul says about the rewards we should be seeking….

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.” – Philippians 3:13-15

Our prize is not in this world.  Our prize is in heaven.  Our goals should not be of this world or better yet, our goals should not be focused on this world.  Our goals should be that which Jesus Christ has placed in us for His Kingdom.

Facing life challenges is hard, but it is great to know that Jesus has my best interest in mind.  He is orchestrating our lives in such a way that He wants to prosper us and give us a future with Him.  He wants what is best for us.  He wants to protect us.  He wants us to have that relationship with Him.

I can’t wait until that day, when I finally meet Him, face to face.  I can’t wait until that day when I hear, “Well done” from my Lord.  I can’t wait until I can cry at His feet, allow Him to wipe every tear from my eyes and spend eternity praising Him, worshipping Him and talking and walking with Him.

But until that day comes, no matter what this life has to offer, no matter how many problems I face, I will say what Joshua said, “Choose this day, who you will serve!  But as for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord!.”

What will you choose?

God bless and encourage someone today.

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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.

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.

“You’re Not Feeding Me! So I’m leaving!”


Just for a moment, I would like you to do the following exercise….

  1. Take the thing you love the most and put it away so you don’t see it.
  2. Turn off your phone.
  3. Sit in a place of solitude (a place where you won’t be bothered).
  4. While in your place of solitude, imagine yourself on a remote island. Not a tropical island, but a dank, dark and dreary island.
  5. Then imagine you cried for help and no one answered.
  6. Then imagine you just wanted to have a conversation, but no one was there.
  7. Then imagine every time you try to get off the island, a storm kicks up and knocks you back to the shore of that deserted island.
  8. Then imagine that no matter how you try to survive, everything you build gets destroyed by the creatures of that island.
  9. Now do this with your eyes closed.

How did you feel?  Did you feel the sense of loneliness?  Did your stress level go way up?  What about the sense of not being able to escape, the sense of hopelessness?  How did you feel about the creatures destroying all you were trying to accomplish?  Were you angry at them?

What you just experienced is what faithful ministers feel regularly.  They are working hard at preparing sermons, organizing meetings, visiting their congregants and working within the community.  Yet even though they are doing the work they have prepared for, they still get feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and anger.  Why is this?  Think of it this way…

Typically, a to write a really good sermon it takes approximately 20-30 hours.  This time is spent on prayer, study, research and writing.  Now add meeting times, maybe 3-5 hours per week, visiting congregants, another 3-5 hours per week.  Finally, add time with the community, another 3-5 hours per week.  Already you are working 45 hours per week.  What this doesn’t include is sermon practice time, Sunday morning or any time concerning the physical church building needs.  As we imagine this, we begin to see that many ministers spend 50-60 hours per week working.  This is if you are a full-time minister.  If you are a bi-vocational minister, add another 35-40 hours per week.  This means that bi-vocational ministers potentially can work around 90-100 hours per week.

If you do research on churches hiring pastors, many of them are now asking for bi-vocational pastors to step up to the plate.  This means that the church cannot financially support the pastor and his family but needs to have a leader that can train them on proper living.

From personal experience I can tell you that managing 2 vocations and giving both vocations your 100% plus spending time with your family is nearly impossible.  Yet many ministers, throughout the world are bi-vocational.

Now if you spent all of this time, away from your family, serving others, preparing good sermons yet the return on those efforts were apathy, complaints, pain and suffering, wouldn’t you want to leave?

Did you know that pastors today, average less than 5 years in ministry?  In fact, I read an article that stated the fruit of the effectiveness of a pastor doesn’t happen until his 7th year.  So why are so many men leaving ministry to pursue other careers?

Many churches today demand a lot of their pastor.  They demand a pastor do almost everything in the church.  One church I used to attend, the pastor did everything.  From sermon prep to counseling, to financial to even mowing the lawn.  It was as if the entire congregation decided they were too busy to take care of the place where they worshiped.  Needless to say, that church is no longer in existence.

But I have listened to both congregants and pastors moan and complain about each other and what each other’s expectations.  Many times, congregants will complain the pastor is not doing his job, yet they cannot quantify what that means.  Pastors complain about the apathy of their congregation, yet cannot quantify what that means.  So why is this happening?

I believe the reason why this happens is because of sin in the church.  I’m not talking about a pastor having extra-marital affairs, nor am I speaking of congregants being addicted to drinking or pornography.  What I am talking about is the lack of efforts on both parties to recognize that sin in the church can be as simple as, not spending time with our Savior, both singularly and corporately.

We have forgotten about spending time with Christ in prayer, in study and in service.  We have made serving others our god or studying our god, but we have forgotten that anything outside of Christ is idolatry.  (I only understand this because I have been there.)

When we forget about the purpose of the church that Jesus Christ set forth, we make everything else our idols.  We may have the best church programs but if we are not spending quality time with our God, then what we do is nothing more exhausting efforts.  We may have the best sounding music, but if we are not spending time with God, we are simply playing a concert.  We may have the best speakers in the world, but if they and we are not spending time with God, then it is nothing more than an educational lecture.

But did you notice that I never said, “prayer was an idol”?  The reason is because prayer is our method of directly communicating with God.  So if we are in prayer, we are communicating with God.  Prayer is our primary source of staying on track in ministry.  Without prayer, everything we do will ultimately fail.

We see the importance of prayer in Scripture.  The psalms are filled with prayers turned into song.  Jesus spent a lot of his alone time, praying to the Father.  Even Paul says, “pray without ceasing”.  Prayer is our life-line, our umbilical cord to a healthy Christian life.  Prayer allows us to focus our thoughts, cry out to God and even lowers our blood pressure.  It calms us in the midst of life’s storms.  It encourages us when we are depressed.  It gives us strength when we are at our weakest point.  Prayer is more than just words; it is God’s way to fill our lives with Himself.

If we want to solve the problem of pastoral loneliness, hopelessness and anger, I would suggest that both the minister and the congregants spend adequate time in prayer both alone and together.  If we want to resolve the bitterness a congregation may feel towards their leaders, I would suggest praying both alone and together.  If we want to see the church of Jesus Christ grow beyond any of our wildest dreams, I would suggest we all pray both individually as well as corporately.

Once we begin to spend time in prayer together, only then will God move the hearts of individuals to accomplish what He wants in our local churches.  As we spend time in prayer, we will begin to see more encouragement rather than discouragement.  Both ministers and congregants need encouraging, but the only way we are going to begin to do that is by spending more time alone and corporately in prayer with the Creator of everything.

Let’s begin changing the world, by first allowing God to change us in prayer.  We can be better together if we spend more time in prayer.  God bless and encourage someone today.

“Hello God…”


So… here’s a story for you.

Apparently, today…I spoke with God….ON THE PHONE!  I couldn’t believe it!  I wanted to ask him all a bunch of questions.  How long will I live?  When will your Son return?  Can you give me the money I asked for?  I had an incredible conversation with him.  He told me how big He was, how much money he makes and how he affects my entire life.  He told me that I needed to satisfy his needs.

Now before you go all crazy on me…  I did have a conversation with someone today who told me he was my god.  He told me how big he was in business, how important he was to my job and how I have to do exactly what he wants.  Here’s the reality… what he does isn’t all that.  In fact, it doesn’t affect me at all.

The problem was this person saw himself through the eyes of his pride rather than the eyes of God’s love.  It’s like this…  A person is born, lives and works in a small town.  They are friendly, successful and enjoy their work.  However, that same person only does work in that same small town.  They never go outside of that town.  As the town grows, so do they.  As the town buys, he becomes richer.  No matter what happens, everyone knows him and he knows everybody.  When someone from the outside comes into that town to try and do business with him, he refuses and begins to tell that person how important he is and how he is the only one who can help the newcomer in business.  He then compares himself to God and says how nothing happens without his knowledge and authority.   What he does is he only sees himself through his own eyes.  That is called pride and it is the cause of so many of our problems.

We have redefined pride to communicate our feelings towards life itself.  We say things like, “Have pride in your country” or “Take pride in your work”.  The problem is when we “take pride” in something, we communicate how good we are.  When we have pride in our country, we say to ourselves and others, “My country is so important and the best in the world”.  We emphasize “My” rather than “country”.  When we “take pride” in our work, we communicate that our efforts are what get us where we want to be.  But both of these understandings couldn’t be further from the truth.

The book of Proverbs has some good things to say about pride and how God views it.

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

“A person’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” – Proverbs 29:23

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” – Proverbs 16:18

Pride is one of those things, we have twisted.  Isn’t “funny” how we do that?  We take the things God calls bad in life and twist the definition to fit our own desires?  We do this with literally everything.  God says to Adam, “When you eat of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will surely die.”  The serpent then says to his wife, “Will you surely die?”  They focus on their desire to eat good fruit rather than God’s command and viola…we have sin.

When God tells the Israelites to leave Egypt with Moses, they do.  But when they become hungry, they focus in on their own stomachs rather than where God told them to go.  They complain about how good it was in Egypt.  How slavery wasn’t that bad.  They focused in on themselves and what they wanted rather than God’s command for them.

When Nebuchadnezzer (king of Babylon) defeats, captures and enslaves Israel, he believes that he is the greatest king to ever live.  He allows a decree to go forth to worship him and only him.  He felt he was so good at what he does that no one can touch him.  (Until God makes him lose his mind…)

Pride is no different.  God warns us that when pride (focusing on ourselves and our own abilities) enters into our life, the next thing that comes is dishonor, depression and destruction.

When we believe we are the best at what we do, we dishonor others and treat them improperly.  We communicate how good we are rather than help them at what they need.  We puff up our own ego to the detriment of the emotions of those around us.

When we believe we are the best at what we do and someone proves us wrong, we become depressed.  We go from the “drug induced’ high of pride to the “withdrawal” of depression instantaneously.

When we believe we are the best at what we do and are proven wrong, we can also enter into a destructive way of thinking.  We think to ourselves, “I am going to prove them wrong’ or we convince ourselves that they don’t know what they are talking about.  We then go after people and position in anger only to succumb to sleepless nights and people removing themselves from us.  We destroy relationships and ultimately we destroy ourselves.

Pride doesn’t build up… it breaks down.  Pride doesn’t give…it takes.  And this is the polar opposite of what God wants from us.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” – Romans 14:19

“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-17

We are called to build up, not break down.  We are called to encourage, not discourage.  We are called to speak the truth in love, which means we have the ability to share truth without sounding like we know everything.  We speak the truth because we care not because we have more knowledge.

When we build up, it benefits everyone.  When we build up, it gives to others out of love.  When we build up, we execute the exact evidence of God’s love and purpose in our lives.

As we build up, we no longer need the approval of others.  We no longer need to dwell on our past problems.  We no longer need to prove everyone else wrong.

Doesn’t that make you feel free?  When we forsake pride and embrace God’s love, we begin to love others by serving others.  When we forsake pride and embrace God’s will, He grows His church.  He displays His love through our acts of love and kindness.  God is praised when we obey His calling to build up.  God is honored when we help those who cannot help themselves.  God is worshipped when we surrender our pride and embrace His love.

Can we do that today?  Can we serve others and show them how much God loves them?  Can we forget about our denominational differences and display God’s love by serving side by side?  Can we admit that we aren’t the best and aren’t perfect and encourage someone who may be struggling with depression?  Can we finally show the world that what God has commanded is the best and what we desire is nothing in comparison?

Let’s do that today.  Let’s build each other up.  Let’s forsake pride and embrace God’s unconditional, always forgiving love.

God bless and encourage someone today.