Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Sometimes the only thing anyone can do is pray. When it comes to our children we want to fix things for them, we want them to make the right decisions and do the right things. We want them to grow up and have happy fulfilling lives. But often what we want for our children isn't what they get, or even what they want. The disadvantage for us as parents is that we can't walk for them. We have to let them go their own way. Oh sure we can steer them and guide them, but it's kind of like the ol' saying... "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." They have to make their own decisions and run their own race.

Prayer is sometimes the only hope for our children. As I say this I almost make it sound like there is no hope at all for the situation. I don't mean to sound like that, because the truth be known, it's the most powerful thing we can do. Especially if our walk with the Lord is sound and our relationship with Christ is strong. I'm reminded of these verses...

Proverbs 15:29 "The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous."

Philippians 4:10 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication , with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God."

James 5:15,16 (15)" And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins he will be forgiven. (16) Confess your trespasses to one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

Yesterday I received a phone call from a good friend of mine. She was obviously discouraged as she shared with me that her daughter whom she thought was saved, now says that she wasn't saved. She says that she was young and when the other youth went forward, she went to, but she really never gave her heart to Jesus, she just did it because her friends did. Her daughter has had her share of struggles in her life and through the years there has been a tough strain on their relationship. Now she finds out that her daughter isn't saved and the thought of her daughter still being lost is almost more than she can bear. It was a devastating blow. The reason I tell you this story is to share with you her heart. The reason she called me wasn't because she needed to talk about it. The reason she called me was because she was doing all she knew to do to help the situation. She was asking all of her friends that knew the Lord to pray for her daughter. You see, her daughter was meeting with a good friend of theirs today to talk about her salvation. She was asking everyone she knew to pray for God to open her heart so she would receive His gift of salvation. She knew that if everyone prayed then there was hope that her daughter could still be saved.

We'll of course all I could think about was her and her daughter. I prayed often at every remembrance of them all day yesterday and today. This evening I emailed her about the visit asking how it went? She emailed me back...

"My daughter got saved today! I know that it's because of your prayers and the prayers of all my friends that helped to soften her heart so that she would be open and willing to give her heart to Jesus. I'm asking for prayer for her and us as she doesn't have but one Christian friend and the friends and the lifestyle she currently has is not good. Thanks for your prayers. I know that it's friends like you and God that can make all the difference in her life."

So let me ask you... What is it that you wish you could change? Is it your relationship with your children? Maybe your spouse? Maybe your relationship with your co-workers or Boss? Maybe you have a lost friend that needs to know the Lord and it seems that they just won't hear the Good News. Whatever it is... It's not ever hopeless. Pray, pray, pray! Do like my friend did, call everyone you know that is a prayer warrior and ask for their help in praying for you and with you. It's at times when it seems like there is nothing we can do to help, that we can do the most... WE CAN PRAY.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ask and You Shall Receive

I'm always amazed at how quickly God will use us if we are willing to be lead by His Spirit. After writing yesterdays devotion about "walking in the Spirit" this morning I felt convicted and during my quite time alone with God I prayed for forgiveness for being weak and knowingly fulfilling the lust of the flesh rather than obeying the Spirit within me. As we learned from my last devotion... we are in a war zone! A battle rages on within us and it's a decision of which nature we're going to obey, the flesh or the Spirit. This decision is made moment by moment as temptation presents itself. We know that the only way to have victory over the flesh is to utilize God's strength and power against which there is no law.

So this morning during my prayer time I asked God to use me in whatever way He's wants. I also prayed that I would be sensitive and willing to go or do whatever it is that He wants me to do. The focus of my prayer was for forgiveness and to have a willing and obedient heart for God and His service.

Because of some circumstances that came up this morning after I got to church, I was asked to preach the message this evening for our Pastor due to an unforeseen opportunity that had come up so he would be able to go with our youth to a concert in Nashville. As soon as I was asked... before I even had a chance to answer, I knew that God was at work in presenting me with an opportunity to make a choice. Will I follow His Spirit and say yes or will I say no and satisfy my flesh. Of course I said yes, immediately I said yes. It was after I said yes that I realized that I really have to be careful what I ask for because God doesn't waste time. I kind of chuckled to myself at how fast things happened this morning not long after my prayer.

I guess what I find most exciting is this... God is all about forgiveness and restoration. If I find myself out of His will all I have to do is confess and ask for another chance. God's desire for each of us is to shape us into being a vessel that can be used to further His Kingdom and bring Him glory. If we make the choice to follow His leading, again I say this... we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16) My prayer is that I will spend more time in prayer, in bible study, and in His service.

Thank You Lord for answering my prayer so quickly and thank You for allowing me to be aware and sensitive to Your leading in my life. I love you Lord.

Walking in the Spirit

You know this battle that we have to deal with every day gets tiring doesn't it. You know the battle I'm talking about. It's the battle of which nature we're going to follow or obey. Our old nature or our new? Sometimes I just wish that this battle never existed. Why when we give our lives to Christ couldn't He just fill us with His Spirit and because we now have His Spirit indwelling inside of us, we would always be strong and able to resit sin and live according to His purpose easily from that day forward? Of course I already know the answer to that question... God doesn't force Himself on anyone. He has always allowed people to choose Him. To choose Him as their Savior after He's revealed Himself and to choose whether to obey and follow Him or not. Unfortunately for us we will have to wait until we are with Jesus in heaven before the absence of our old nature and desires become a reality. Until then we fight the fight, and depending upon our relationship with Jesus and our ability to focus on Him greatly affects whether we have victory or not with our obedience to follow His will for our lives. The good news is that we can always have victory. Did you know that? Did you know that you can always have victory over the sin in your life? Did you know that your old nature can take a back seat in your life. Yes the temptation will always be there, but victory to resist is always present. Let's look at the following verses found in the book of Galatians 5:16-18.

(16) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
(17) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so you do not do the things that you wish.
(18) But if you are lead by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians goes on to describe in the next few verses the evidence in our lives of following the flesh verses the evidence in our lives of following the Spirit (describing the fruit of the Spirit). The reason these things are mentioned is so we can know without a shadow of a doubt which nature we are following.
If you're like me, you have no problem knowing immediately which nature you're following or obeying, the struggle is in being able to overcome the desires of the old nature and stay the course for Christ, in other words stay in His will.

Verse 18 is critical for us to grab a hold of. "But if you are lead by the Spirit, you are not under the law." This is such a powerful verse. What it tells me is that if I follow the Spirit leading in my life I am not under the law of sin. I can overcome my selfish and sinful desires and follow Christ in whatever it is He wants me to do. The secret to this success is found in verse 16... as we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Verse 17 says that the flesh and the Spirit are contrary to one another, meaning that they are opposites. If we are following one then we are not able to follow the other. It's one or the other! Clear and simple. To follow the Spirit rather than the flesh happens only when we are walking in the Spirit. So how do we walk in the Spirit?

First we have to live in the Spirit, we have to crucify our flesh with all it's passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 says... And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with it's passions and desires." You see, when we give our life to Christ, we crucify our sin. We turn from our sinful ways and determine to follow Christ and His ways. But because of our old sinful nature still within us, we will still be tempted to follow and go our old ways. So we must commit our sinful desires to God's control, day by day, hour by hour and moment by moment! We must draw on the Spirits power to overcome the desire to follow our old ways.

Galatians 5:25 says... If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
What Paul is saying here is this... because we're saved, we should live like it! We need to stay in step with the Holy Spirits leading because the Spirit is our source of strength and power in our new life with Christ. we can't let anyone or anything determine our values or standards in any area of our life.

To wrap this up... I know that I struggle. It bothers me and often Satan wants me to think that maybe, just maybe, I'm not really saved at all. Have you ever felt that way? You know that your not living right, you know about the evidence of a person following the flesh rather than the Spirit and sometimes you see some of those tendencies in your life. Because of that, Satan fills your head with terrible thoughts about doubting your salvation and he works to make you a poor witness for Christ, because of the guilt he can place upon you. BUT DON"T BE FOOLED! The bible makes it very clear that if we don't walk in the Spirit and crucify our sinful desires every minute of every day, we will struggle and not do the things we want or know we should do. When this happens and if you find yourself not being lead by the Spirit... run back to Christ!

My guess is that your prayer life is suffering and you're finding it difficult to pray.
My guess is that you are not reading your bible regularly anymore.
My guess is that you are not spending any quite time with God anymore.
My guess is that you are not in Sunday school or a bible study anymore.
My guess is that you are not engaged or involved in any ministry in your church anymore.

I speak from experience... and it's real simple to get back on track. CRUCIFY your sinful lifestyle. It's not that you never knew Christ and you never got saved. You know you did! The problem is that you have forgotten what it means to live for Christ, to walk with Christ every day. You have slipped back to the ways of your old nature and you are weak and vulnerable. Go back to Jesus and repent! He has the power to restore all the above areas immediately in your life. Again... it's your choice. Who are you living for? Live for Christ!

God bless you and may you always walk in the Spirit.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Use it or Lose it!

The passage of scripture we'll be looking at today is found in the book of Matthew 25:14-30. This passage of scripture teaches us that if we are to be given the Spirit of God, then it is wise to do something with it. There will be a day of accountability from God on what we've done to help build His kingdom. Let's take a look at Matthew 25:14-30.

Mat 25:14
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.
Mat 25:15
To one he gave five talents* of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
Mat 25:16
The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.
Mat 25:17
So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.
Mat 25:18
But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
Mat 25:19
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
Mat 25:20
The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
Mat 25:21
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!’
Mat 25:22
“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
Mat 25:23
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!’
Mat 25:24
“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
Mat 25:25
So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
Mat 25:26
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?
Mat 25:27
Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
Mat 25:28
” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.
Mat 25:29
For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
Mat 25:30
And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The example given here of course is of a Master dividing his money among three servants according to their individual abilities. God does this with us as Christians. We never receive from God more than we can handle. But if we're lazy and don't use wisely the gifts and abilities that God has given us, God may decide that he will give your gifts and abilities to those that can be more productive for His Kingdom.
Does this mean He doesn't love us anymore? No, His love is never failing, but that doesn't mean He's not disappointed in us. We are responsible to use well what God has given us. It's not a matter of how much God has given us, it's a matter of how well we use what we have.

We know that Jesus is coming back (vs 19). So does this mean we quit our jobs in order to serve God? No. it means that we are to use our time, talents, and treasures diligently in order to serve God completely in whatever we do. For some people this may mean changing professions, but for most of us it means doing our daily work out of love for God.

The first two servants upon their masters return we're so excited to show what they had accomplished while he was away. Both had been equally productive with what they had been given. One was given five talents, the other two talents, but both had doubled their money through their efforts and they we're able to present this to their master when he asked.
The third servant wasn't entrusted with much at all, only one talent. But this servant was thinking only of himself. He wanted to play it safe, knowing that if he lost what he was given his master would come down hard on him. So he played it safe, he did nothing with what he was given. But upon his masters return he was judged for his self-centeredness. This teaches us that we must never make excuses to avoid what God is calling us to do. If God truly is our Master then we must obey willingly. We are really only caretakers of God's money and time. It's not even ours to begin with. Just like this last servant, when we squander or abuse what God has given us, we deserve to be punished. Notice the first two servants worked hard to please their master and were rewarded and appreciated by their master, but the last one wasn't treated the same, nor should he be.
In verse 28 the master takes the talent from the wicked lazy servant and gives it to the one that had ten talents. This man lost what little he had to the one that was the most effective with what his master had given him.

Our lives as Christians have been blessed with gifts and abilities from the Holy Spirit. God is shaping us and molding us into His likeness through the work of His Spirit within us. Are you using the gifts that God has given you to bring Him glory? Are you using His gifts and abilities to reach the lost and build His kingdom? Are you involved and serving somewhere in the Church (body of Christ) that God has placed you in? If the answer is no to any of these questions, then you are at risk! Not of losing your salvation of course, but of losing the blessings that God has for you as He uses you in His service. God's will be done, with or without you. Think about areas of your life that you feel God wants you to work out the will of His Spirit, then do it. Someday there will be a day when you hear the words from Christ himself... "Well done, good and faithful servant." "Come and share your Masters happiness."

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me and giving me the gifts of Your Spirit. May I use these gifts to bring You honor and glory in all areas of my life. Use me today Lord to help build Your Kingdom. Amen.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

When life's a Mess

When Life’s a Mess... I wrote part of this a few years ago when my son was going through his most difficult time with drug abuse. This time in his life of course impacted how I performed at work, it impacted the stress we had at home, and well with issues at church at the time, I wasn't able to handle the extra stress from that very well either. My life was a mess.

God/Church..... Religion, Worship, Bible Study, Fellowship, Leadership, Stress.

Family..... Spouse, Children, Relationships, Love, Harmony, Strife, Stress.

Work..... Boss, Supervisor, Performance, Co-Workers, Relationships, Drudge, Stress.

These three areas are the most influential areas of our lives and where we are impacted the greatest. We spend most of our time in these three areas of our life.
If all three areas are going well, then we are happy and full of joy. We are confident in ourselves and feel we can tackle the world. Things are going great and we feel good.
If two of the areas are going well, and one is not, then we take comfort in the other two areas. We feel some stress and or failures to some degree in the one, but it doesn't overwhelm us because we have the safety and security that we feel in the other two areas to help us get through what ever it is that weighs on us.
If only one of the areas is going well and two are not going well we are feeling stressed out. This leaves only one area to get comfort and security from. We find ourselves avoiding or less interested in the two that hurt us and we want to hide in the safety of the one area that makes us feel good about ourselves.
But what happens if all three are a mess? We are at risk. Where do we go for help? Our world is falling apart and we don’t know where to turn.

One evening several years ago I had the opportunity to preach the Sunday evening service. I preached about the effects of these three areas in our life and I applied Scripture to help us get ourselves through these difficult times that most everyone goes through. My answer of course was to focus on God! To start with that one area first because the other areas won’t improve or get better if we don’t seek first the Kingdom of God. He must be our focus and so often we lose our focus on Christ when things are such a mess. We only see the present circumstances and were blind to seeing our way out. Things appear hopeless to us and were in a fog of pain and suffering that we just can’t see our way out of. By focusing on God we are realizing that we can’t get out of this mess on our own and we start to seek His direction and will in our lives and that’s when we see improvement in these areas that we are struggling in. The message was well received and I felt that it was a good lesson for all of us that night.

Now that a couple of years had passed I found myself in the very situation that I preached on a few years back. You see, at the time I preached this message I was feeling pretty good. These three areas were going well in my life and I felt pretty much like I described when all three areas are going well. Since then, my life has been through some great trials and tribulations that have allowed me to find myself with all three of these areas a mess not too long ago. Oh, not to the point that I was about to lose my job, and not to the point that my family was falling apart, although I did feel like I was losing my son and the stress this created for our family was incredible. Also not to the point that I was going to quit going to Church. But I was weak and hurting and tired of life because these three areas were not going as well as I’d dreamed or hoped they would. There was trouble in Church, trouble at home, and trouble at work........No Safe place anymore. I’d realized another very important part of the lesson that I didn’t know then that I know now. I made a mistake in my first sermon. Hang on, because you may not have seen it either. I made the mistake of grouping God in with the church and religion area! I know what you are thinking..., Isn't God about religion? Isn't God tied to the Church?. Let me explain where I made my mistake.
Without going into much detail, I found myself frustrated with God as I became frustrated with my church. As I saw gossip, arguing and complaining about church leadership, worship style, music, visions, etc. I found myself upset with God as well. By my grouping Him in this category of my life I became disappointed in God and this greatly affected my relationship with Jesus. I found it difficult to read my bible anymore. Praying became something I just didn’t want to do anymore. I was confused and frustrated with my little faith. Oh what a mistake I made, and I suffered for a couple of years with this mistake until I finally realized this truth...... God is His own category and it’s above all else. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it! Of course I already knew this, but I did what so many other people have done over the many years of Christianity. I tried to put God in my little box of my limited understanding. And I made the mistake of thinking that Church was the place where God was or should be. I guess somehow I convinced myself that of all the areas in my life that church would be the most Godly and when it wasn’t, I thought less of God. Dear Lord forgive me for this!
I began to remember times in the bible when Jesus was sick and tired of the way the Pharisees did church. He rebuked the religious leaders of the church just as much if not more than anyone in the bible. Why? Because the religious leaders were all about appearances and formalities and traditions and legalistic rules and regulations that they deemed necessary to be a part of their idea of the body of Christ. And this disgusted Jesus and He rebuked them.

So I still say there are three main areas that affect most of the time in our lives, they are...
CHURCH and all that goes with it.
FAMILY and all that goes with it.
WORK and all that goes with it.

We still feel stressed as each of these areas become more and more of a mess, but there is hope! Focus on the One who knows how to make it better. Allow God to work through us so we can impact these areas of our lives as God sees necessary.

When I finally realized that God is not grouped in with anything else. It became easier to focus on Him and His truth and will in my life. God’s not to blame for issues that happen in any area of my life. He loves me and wants me to be happy and have His best for me because He loves me so much. By focusing on Jesus, He has the ability to improve all areas at once. All things become better when we see through His eyes and feel through His heart. These three areas of our lives may never be what we dreamed or imagine they should be in our minds, but with Gods help and understanding we are thankful for what we do have and what it is and can become when we allow God to transform us and therefore transform the situations in our lives.

So when your world starts to fall apart and things seem out of control... remember this. With God you have hope in the situation. Focus on Him. Don't group Him in with your problems, but instead realize that He's the way out. Focus less on your circumstances and more on Christ and being obedient to His will for your life. He wants you to be happy. He wants you to have abundant life! Satan's the culprit for the mess in your life, so if your going to overcome, then you must have the power that can defeat Satan. God is the answer and He alone can win your battles for you. Surrender to Him and watch what happens. Suddenly the issues in your Church are better (because God has given you peace and wisdom to see where you can help.) Suddenly your place of work becomes better as God gives you the strength to endure your relationship with your boss and He even gives you the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of those you work with. Your performance increases and you become more efective as you work for the Lord rather than man. Then suddenly your time at home becomes quality time and a loving time as we are able to spend time together working through whatever it is that tears us apart. Whether it's our children and their struggles or maybe it's our relationships with our spouse. Whatever it is, with God's love working through us, it can improve and become better. So rather than trying to fix your Church life, your work life, and your home life,... FIX your relationship with Christ first and then your life has a chance to fall back into place.

The secret... is in knowing that you can't fix your life, God can. I don't know if most men are like me, but I have the desire to fix problems when they come up. I want to take care of it, fix it, make it right. And when I can't, I feel sick, and worthless, and like I've failed. But now I know that God never intended for me to place that kind of responsibility on my shoulders. He wants me to trust and lean on Him and allow Him to lead me through the storms of my life. I thank the Lord that I've realized that I'm not the God of my life... He is.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for helping me to understand that You are above all my problems. That any area in my life can improve when You are in control. Lord forgive me when I think I can be strong, when I think I can fix the messes I create on my own. Lord you constantly allow me to get myself into situations so that I can be reminded that on my own, without Your guidance and direction, I can quickly make a mess of my life. Thank You Lord, that You love me and want the best for me. May I always stay focused on you so that these three main areas of my life can be the joy for me that I know You want them to be. May You bless our Churchs, our places of work, and our familes at home. Thank you Lord. Amen.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Made alive in Christ

Today I was reading in Ephesians Chapter 2. Every time I read this passage of scripture I sit there amazed at what it means to me. It reminds me that I was once dead but now I'm alive because of what Christ did for me. When I read these verses it makes wish I could show it to everyone I know that doesn't know Christ, because these words are that powerful. They're life changing words!

Eph 2:1 Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins.
Eph 2:2 You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
Eph 2:3 All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God's anger just like everyone else.
Eph 2:4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much,
Eph 2:5 that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that you have been saved!)
Eph 2:6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms-all because we are one with Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:7 And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8 God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Eph 2:9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Eph 2:10 For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

You know, when someone gives you a gift, you don't say... "What do I owe you?" No, you say... "Thank You." Don't you? Yet we as Christians after accepting God's free gift of salvation feel obligated to pay it back, we try to work our way to God. But, because our salvation is a free gift, we should respond with gratitude and thanksgiving. We become Christians by God's amazing grace and love for us. We realize that it's not because of our efforts, accomplishments, achievements or any acts of service, that we have been given eternal life. However, we know that because we have been given eternal life we seek to help others, to serve and show acts of service to others, because of our gratitude for this free gift of eternal life. We don't work or serve to earn God's favor... we do good because we're thankful and appreciative.

Eph 2:10 says that we are God's masterpiece! He created us! We are His works of art and salvation is something only God can do. It's his powerful creative work in us! We're not saved merely for our own benefit, but to serve Christ and do his work. What is this work? It's good things that we do for others, for our church, for our communities, friends and neighbors. The good things that God had planned for us... long ago.

I'm always amazed that even before I realized I needed Jesus, He had the good things that He wants me to do planned out long ago.

These verses help me to stay focused and remember to do good, to help others, to fulfill God's plan for my life. And it's not because I owe God anything, because I don't. He saved me just because he loves me. That's it! HE LOVES ME. That's why I live for Him. Thank you God for the gift you gave me. Thank you!


Monday, February 12, 2007

Oops, Did I say that?

Have you ever struggled with foul language? Over the years I have gotten better with this, however, I still slip once in a while and say things that I regret saying and I'm ashamed I've said. Usually these words that I regret saying come out after I've been frustrated or angered in some way. Of course those are the times when I'm not really focused on living for Christ, but rather my own selfishness. I'm amazed at how quickly I can say something I regret and I'm not just talking about foul language. I can also say something that's hurtful to others. I can say things that I wish desperately I could take back, but as you know... it's too late for that, then I'm forced to deal with the consequences and impact of my words. If only I could control my speech.

You know... the bible has a lot to say about our speech. I've been reading in the book of James lately and of course when I came across this passage of scripture, I immediately thought about my own weaknesses in this area.

James 3:6 says this... (6) And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

Wow! No wonder there are severe consequences when we say things we shouldn't. When I read that it can set my whole life on fire... I think back to times that I've had to do damage control because of the things I've said. Usually we say things that are hurtful without regard for others and then later regret it because after we've settled down we realize that what we said we really didn't mean. We were just angry or upset. That doesn't make it OK of course and I guess that's why we have to go through the hell that our tongue has created for us. After all... the bible tells us that the tongue is a flame of fire, set on fire by hell itself!

James also tells us that we can not control our tongue.

James 3:7-10 says this... (7) People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish. (8) but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. (9) Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those that have been made in the image of God. (10) And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

So what hope is there for us then if we know that our tongue is filled with this deadly poison? Do we cut our tongues out to avoid such speech? Well that doesn't work does it, you are after all reading what I'm saying right now, so even though I'm silent, I'm still being heard.

The best answer that I have for us is this... Verse 7 says that People can tame all kinds of animals and birds etc, but we can not tame the tongue. The reason being is that the tongue reflects our heart. It says what we feel without regard for who we hurt. It says what we want even though we know we'll regret it later. I'm reminded of why this happens. This battle that goes on within us everyday of our lives. You know the battle... the Spiritual battle within us, our new nature and our old nature battling for control of the way we live and the things we think say and do.
Do you remember the times when you've said hurtful things, or let loose of those foul words you're ashamed you even know? When you did that, what was on your mind at the time? I'll bet it wasn't concern for someone else was it? In all my times that I think back, the poison flowed from my tongue because of what I was feeling, what I was suffering, or what I felt was wrong towards me. I lashed out because I was hurt in some way. I guess the point I'm making is that the focus shifted from Christ to myself in every case. It's true, I can't tame my tongue, but I believe that Christ can. But for that to happen it's like all other areas of sin in my life. I have to be obedient and willing to follow the Holy Spirit within me. If I don't, well then look out!

So what do we do?

  • Pray, pray, pray. we need to stay connected with Christ. Allow God to take control of us through His Spirit.

  • Read and Study His word. We have to listen and react to whatever it is that God is revealing to us through our bible study. If we never input His word, think about all the other junk we input all week long instead. Who do you think we'll sound or look like? Jesus or the world?

  • Repent and ask for forgiveness. Satan wants you and I to carry this load of guilt and burdens around so we are virtually ineffective for Christ and His work. We all know that with Christ we can do all things... but Satan knows that with our guilt we can do nothing because our sin blinds us and we forget we have Christ. So repent and accept the Lords forgiveness.

Let me give you one example of why we need to repent and ask for forgiveness. If we don't we won't be effective.... As a supervisor I'm required to hold people accountable for their work performance. Let's use the issue of attendance for example. How can I hold those folks that I supervise accountable for their attendance if I too have attendance issues. What happens is, I don't do it. Basically I become ineffective in my role as supervisor over this issue because I know I've got the same problem. It's the same with our speech, we feel ashamed of our behavior and how can we lead other people to having a relationship with Jesus with the example we set. This is why we need to repent and ask for forgiveness. We need to be made righteous so we can be effective for the Lord in whatever it is He wants us to do.

So I assume that if I'm having problems in the area of my speech or I'm having to deal with the consequences of what I'm saying, then maybe, just maybe, I need to refocus my attention on Christ. This I do know... Christ wouldn't say, think, or do the things that I do almost every day. My goal has to be to become more like Christ and allow His Spirit and truths to permeate my heart if I have any hope of watching what I say. I know in my weakness... my tongue will and does protect itself at all cost. Let's look at what James says in Chapter 3:15-16...

James 3:(15) For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual and demonic. (16) For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

So what hope do we have? Tapping into God's wisdom is the answer!

James 3:(17) But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shoes no favoritism and is always sincere.

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus. Thank you for this lesson today. May I always be mindful of You and be obedient to You in all areas of my life. Lord I know that if I'm not sensitive to Your leading then I risk saying things that can be hurtful, nasty and self centered. I do it too often. Forgive me Lord. Please watch over me and the things I say. Amen

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Mr Munholland

Influence is something each of us do everyday without even realizing it. Like it or not, intentional or not, you are influencing those that interact with you as you live your life each day.

I want to tell you about a man that I have tremendous respect for. This respect has grown over the years as I've realized the influence he had on me at such a young age in my life. I'm 46 years old today, but the way this man lived his life still impacts me to this day and I haven't seen him for years. As a matter of fact the last time I did see him was maybe 8 years ago or so, I'm not quite sure. He was getting up in years and he was very weak in his old age. His wife had passed on and he was now living alone. I had traveled home to visit my family while on vacation and God had laid it on my heart to find Mr. Munholland and visit with him. He was on my mind a lot lately. I asked my folks if they knew where Mr. Munholland was living now and they did. So I went to see this dear old man. Before I go any further with this, let me tell you about Mr. Munholland...

When I was about 12 years old I lived a couple of miles outside the small town of Mulvane KS. I lived in a small mobile home with my family in "Munhollands" mobile home park. Mr Munholland was the owner of the mobile home park and he was our landlord. When we first moved there I really never thought a lot about Mr. Munholland. He was friendly enough, but at my age I was always into something I shouldn't be into and being the landlord that he was, well he would have to get after me from time to time. I always liked playing in the big ditch behind his house, He had built a retaining wall there and as many times as he would tell me not to climb it, well, I just couldn't help myself, I'd climb it anyway and he'd always be running me off. he also had storm shelters that he had built for his tenants to go into when the threat of tornado's would come in the spring time of each year. Well I always liked playing in those shelters. They made a fantastic fort to play in, But he was always running me out of there too. He did hire me to mow his lawn every summer and he even recommended me to many of the people he rented his lots to. He was so particular about how I mowed his yard. $3.00 is what he paid me and he would always inspect my work after I was done. He'd walk the yard and look at everything. Did I get the weeds clipped around the patio? Were the weeds pulled from the fence row? Did I mow the grass level and in straight lines. He was a tough ol guy to work for, but I always felt like he appreciated the job I did. For about a month out of every summer his grandson would come to stay with him. His name was Steve too. We quickly became best of friends and we would spend every hour of every day, playing in the fields and hiking down to the creek. We loved to ride our bikes down the road to the train tracks and watch those trains go by. We both loved trains!

As I got to spending more and more time with Steve, well of course I was spending more and more time with Mr. and Mrs. Munholland. I started to notice things about Mr. Munholland that I thought was really strange. He had certain rules that he would follow in the way he lived his life. Without fail, every Sunday he and his wife would go to church. You see I didn't go to church, no one in my family went to church. So I really didn't understand why anyone really went to church. But he always went. Another thing I noticed about Mr. Munholland was that he would never work on Sunday. Every other day of the week, he was working like crazy all day long. He'd fix this or fix that, or he'd be pouring cement for a new patio on a new lot. He might be smoothing out the sand on our gravel roads, or working on the well pump that was giving us trouble. He was always very busy and hard at work. But on Sunday, he never worked... well I take that back, the only time he worked on Sunday was if someone in the park had a problem or an emergency repair that absolutely couldn't wait till Monday, then he'd fix it. I also noticed that if the first of the month fell on a Sunday, then he wouldn't take our rent money until the next day. I can remember my dad asking me to run the rent check over to Mr. Munholland, but saying because it was Sunday I'd have to take it over in the morning. Mr. Munholland would not do business on Sunday. I really just didn't get it, but figured if that's what he wants to do then, OK! As I got to spending more time with his grandson, well this got me in the house more. On Sundays all he and Mrs. Munholland would do after they got home from Church was sit around the house and listen to Gospel music and read their bibles. I'm not kidding... Every time I came over on Sunday afternoons, I'd find them sitting together in the living room reading their bibles and visiting and you know what? They really seemed happy. It was like this was the best day of the week for them, and all I could think about was, how boring is that. Sitting around the house reading all day long. Whats wrong with these two? So Steve and I would head off to the creek or hop on our bikes and go have a blast playing together all afternoon until it was time for them to go to church again that evening.
Occasionally Mr. Munholland would go and talk to my dad and ask if I could go to church with them and of course I would get to go. It was always fun because we would stop afterwords and eat lunch at a restaurant somewhere. What a treat! My family rarely went out to eat! So I really liked it when we'd do that. (As I think back now, the food we ate at the restaurants wasn't near as good as moms cooking, but it was just different and fun!)
Their church was incredible. It was big and I can remember just watching and listening to all that was said and all that happened there. It felt good to be there, and the people were very nice and friendly, I liked it. It would make me think about things like.... why didn't my family go to church? Is there really a God? If there really is a God, why does my Mom and Dad never talk about him. I really struggled with those questions because after going a few times I began to believe that God was real, but if He was real, then my parents would believe in him wouldn't they? Maybe they do believe in God! But why don't we go to church then? These were questions I often thought about at that age but never really asked anybody about. Well as summer came to an end so did his grandsons vacation. Back to Missouri Steve would go until next summer. And that's pretty much how every year went with Mr. Munholland until finally Steve got older and came less often and I got older and we just kind of lost touch. I finally graduated from High School and joined the Army and I've been living out of state just about ever since.

25 years later....

About 8 years ago, Living in Tennessee, I was sitting there in my living room with my wife and we were both listening to Christian music and reading our bibles after eating a big lunch and enjoying a wonderful service at our church that morning, and I realized just how much I was enjoying being able to relax and just read my bible. It was the best day of my week! I finally got it! Now I know what it was that Mr. Munholland had. As a kid, I thought it was silly, even a little crazy, and here I am today doing the same thing. I wonder what my boys were thinking as they hurried off out the door to go hop on their bikes and speed off down the road headed for the creek? Probably.... what is it with Mom and Dad?... I don't get it!

As I drove to Mr. Munhollands house, I was anxious to see him again after all these years. I rang the door bell and he was so happy to see me. I had called him to see if he would be there prior to me coming to visit, so he was expecting me, but we hadn't seen each other for so long... we both looked different. We had a lot of catching up to do and we both enjoyed our visit so much. I missed not getting to visit with Mrs. Munholland.
After catching up, I wanted to tell Mr. Munholland the reason for my visit. I told him that he has influenced me more than anyone ever has in my life other than my family of course. However, the influence that he had on my life, changed my life for eternity! I wanted him to know that because I had the opportunity to be around him, to watch him, to spend time with him and see how he lived his life in obedience to the way he felt God wanted him to live, that he profoundly impacted my life. I used to think he was crazy. I never understood at the time while I was young, but God used him as an example for me to see and learn from. Eventually I gave my life to Christ, and so did my wife and kids. You know I don't ever remember Him preaching to me about God... ever. But God spoke to me through the way he lived. I just wanted to thank him and let him know that I belong to Christ today, because of the way he lived for Christ back 20 years ago as an example for me. I just wanted to thank him. I loved him so much. And just as I expected.... that was the last thing he expected me to tell him. It touched his heart and we cried together. After all... I was that kid that only went to church with them because I could spend more time with their grandson that way and it gave me a chance to go out and eat at a restaurant. But I watched him and I saw what was important to him, and that always stuck in my mind over the years. What did he have that I didn't. How can he be that content? What is it that drives him to live this way and be sold out so completely to it? I found the answer... JESUS!

Thank you Mr. Munholland, Thank you.

I have to ask... Who are you influencing today? Somebody is watching us and we must never forget the power of influence we have on those that interact with our lives every day. I pray often for that kind of obedient lifestyle, and I've never seen such disipline in a man to live for Christ as I have in Mr. Munholland.

God's blessing upon you as you live for Him.


I Don't Know What to Do!

Verse of Scripture is 1 Kings, 3:7

(7) "Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my Father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties."

This verse comes in the context of God revealing himself to Solomon during a dream. In the biblical era God sometimes communicated with individuals in dreams. God comes to young King Solomon during the night with this message,
1 Kings, 3:5, At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." The reply that Solomon gave we find in our focal verse for today. Solomon is saying he is a new King with the whole responsibility of his Fathers Kingdom resting square on his shoulders. Solomon knows that these people that he leads are God's chosen people and that he needs a discerning heart to know how to govern God's people. But Solomon realizes one important truth... He's young and he doesn't know what to do.

We've all seen or known someone that had to follow in the footsteps of their Father haven't we? The father was successful in business or maybe athletics and then along comes the son and he's forced to deal with the pressures of measuring up to what his Father had done. The same was true with Solomon, but Solomon knew something about his Father David that was key to his success as King. He knew that David, his Father was a great man of God. A man after God's own heart. You see, Solomon knew nothing about the responsibilities of leading these people, but he knew where his fathers strength came from. So Solomon goes directly to the same source... God. He acknowledges that God is responsible for giving him his throne. Solomon has done nothing on his own merit to acquire this political power and he knows it's because of his fathers faithfulness to the Lord that he now has this responsibility.
Solomon was very specific in his statement of his childlike ability wasn't he? "I... do not know how to carry out my duties." In some translations of the bible this reads, "I... do not know how to go and come." Basically, it's a plea for help! Solomon is asking for the skills of leadership, the basic fundamental qualifications for a king. Solomon knew that limited by his own resources he would fail but he knew that God could give him what he needed to reign over Israel and he wisely asked for God's intervention.

Have you ever felt that you were in over your head? Have you ever felt that the opportunity before you was impossible to handle? Have you stressed yourself out worrying how you were going to accomplish the task before you? I think we all have been in this situation at one time or another. Solomon was here as well. God knew that Solomon was fretting and worrying over this situation and He initiated the conversation or prayer. Why do you think God revealed Himself to Solomon? Well it was to remind him to ask God for help! God is saying, I'm right here... "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."
Why do we not ask God for help in the beginning, why are we so stubborn, causing ourselves to worry? Many reasons I guess. We may feel that our problems are small and we don't need to bother God with stuff like this. We may feel we can handle this situation on our own, with a false sense of confidence. Maybe we've only gone to God in the past with our prayers when we needed God to get us out of a bad situation. But there is a lesson for us here! I believe that God wants to be a part of everything we do. He wants to bless you and give you everything you need to be successful, but too often we don't ask for His help. Remember, if we ask for God's help or guidance, then we have just acknowledged that God is greater than our problems and we are trusting that He will deliver us through them. Also God is pleased when we ask for His help. 1 Kings, 3:10 says this... The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.
Go ahead... ask for God's wisdom and understanding. He's simply waiting for you to realize, again, that you need Him. So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed or stuck not knowing what to do next, ask God, He knows!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly father. I ask for your forgiveness. I know that too often I try and handle things on my own and I only ask for help after I've tried to accomplish it on my own. I praise You for this example that King Solomon has given me. Sometimes I do not know what to do, but I can trust that you always do. May I just be faithful enough to ask for help. Amen

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Lost and Found

I love the parable of the lost son or prodigal son. I've titled this devotion "Lost and Found" because this truly is a story about a lost son that finally finds his way back home. This parable is found in its' entirety in Luke 15:11-32. I'll focus on of few of those verses today.

Luk 15:21
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.*’
Luk 15:22
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Luk 15:23
Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.
Luk 15:24
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

This relationship between the father and his son, is the same relationship that we have with our heavenly Father. We are the son, in this parable and God is the Father. To fully understand how terrible this son was behaving we have to look back at a few other verses in Luke. In verse 12 The son demands his inheritance, and when he got it he took it all and left home. In verse 13 the bible says he squandered his wealth in wild living and he eventually spent and wasted his entire fortune to the point that he was literally starving. When this young man finally comes to his senses (vs17) he realizes that his fathers hired men have plenty to eat and here he is starving to death! He decides that its time to go back to his father and admit that he's messed things up royally, hoping that his father will at least let him work as a hired hand, because he knows he's no longer worthy to be called his son. So he heads home... and as he journeys home, his fathers sees him coming from a long way off in the distance and being filled with compassion, HE RAN, to his son throwing his arms around him and kissing him! Not exactly the kind of reception that he expected was it? And of course, not the kind of reception he deserved.

You see there is great comfort in this parable for those that see the truth in this message. God loves us unconditionally! No matter what you've done in the past, no matter how badly you have behaved, and no matter if you too have lost your senses just like this son did, there is good news! When you finally come to your senses and realize your sin... repent! When we admit or acknowledge our sin this is when we finally can ask God for forgiveness and to do this we need to go back home to Him. And if you'll just seek God, He will be there waiting, His heart filled with love and compassion, and He'll embrace you and kiss you with His love.

It seems that when I sin, I try to hide form God. I feel embarrassed and want to hide a lot like Adam and Eve must have wanted to hide after they sinned against God. But by hiding I distance myself from God. Then the next thing I know, I don't feel His presence anymore. God will give me space if that's what I want, but eventually I come to my senses (Praise the Lord) and I run back to Him, pleading forgiveness and my experience has always been a reconciliation with Him. A loving relationship that is restored.

I find it interesting as I read this parable that the Father never went anywhere looking for his son. His son in his own stubbornness had made up his own mind, and he left. Just like you and I do every time we sin against God. But the good news is that when we realize what we've done. Just like the father in this story was waiting for his sons return, so it is with our Heavenly Father. He's waiting on us to come back. He's watching in the distance and He wants to forgive us and restore us with His love again.

Don't let your sin blind you from the love of God. Praise the Lord that His Spirit within us will guide us back home if we will just be obedient to it's leading.

Prayer: Dear Lord! So often I've done things that send me off in the opposite direction of your loving arms. Trying to do things on my own and in my own way. Stubborn and disobedient to Your will. But when I finally realize what I've done... you always take me back, always! Please Lord, help me to learn from my mistakes and help me to grow each time this happens. Lord, make me more like you Jesus. never to run away again. Amen

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Get out of the Boat

A few years ago I attended a promise keepers conference in Atlanta GA. As always these conferences are a great time of reflection and Spiritual growth for me. This particular conference was no different. One of the speakers was John Ortberg and he had written a book titled, "If you want to walk on water, you've got to GET OUT OF THE BOAT." His speech really hit home with me personally. He talked about what it meant to be a passionate follower of Christ, to have a relentless obsession for Christ.

I want to share a few verses of scripture with you from the book of Matthew 14:28-29.

(28) And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." (29) So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on water to go to Jesus.

The verses following these two, verses 30 and 31 describe how Peter got scared and started focusing his attention on the storm around him rather than on Jesus and he immediately begins to sink! He cries out to the Lord saying... "Lord save me!" then immediately Jesus reaches out His hand and catches Peter.

Have you ever failed at something? Especially when it comes to living for Christ. Of course you have. Who hasn't. Have you ever found yourself in sin that you just can't seem to overcome? You want to live for Christ but you feel that you are failing miserably in your daily walk. I think often times we hear the Spirit calling us to do something for Christ, and we start off in that direction, but the storm around us often takes our eyes off of the task. We become discouraged and ashamed due to our lack of obedience.
Lets look at Peter, he failed to make it to Jesus on the water, he lost his focus and he sank like a rock! But the important thing to understand here is this... Peter would never have been able to experience the Lords strength and help if he had not been willing to get out of the boat. Peter performed a miracle that day, he walked on water! But most importantly Peter experienced the mighty hand of Christ saving him when he cried out... "Lord, save me!" What this shows me is that we have to be willing to take risks. I'm talking about the kind of risks that only God can handle. This way God gets the glory, not us. Sadly though, sometimes I find myself playing it safe by staying in the boat. You see Peter obeyed the Lords command to come, then Peter walked out to Jesus without hesitation or fear. This is the example that all of need. One of immediate obedience and trust in the Lord. The good news is this... even if you get in over your head and take your eyes off of Jesus, he will reach down and catch you and save you if you will only cry out to Him.

You may be commanded by Jesus to do something that may require the same kind of faith that was required of Peter that day. Maybe you feel God calling you into the Ministry full time. Maybe you feel God calling you to the mission field, maybe it's to teach Sunday school, or maybe it's to witness to that friend of yours that you know doesn't know Christ as their savior. What ever it is, be obedient and walk out there on that open sea of uncertainty where only your faith in Jesus will get you through. If you do, you will be blessed. You'll be blessed with the experiences that only God can give you and you will experience Gods love and grace when you fail along the way. Simply cry out to Jesus and let His love restore you.

You know, all of us are potential water walkers. Christ is still looking for people that are willing to get out of the boat. Where is God calling you to get out of the boat?

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I pray for the faith to always trust and obey You and You're calling in my life. Lord, help me to take risks for You. Forgive me Lord for the times I've failed You and thank you for saving me and restoring me when I took my eyes off of You. Challenge me to get out of the boat. Amen.