Monday, December 29, 2008

God is watching

You know even when you think no one is watching, always remember that God is. Those little secrets that only you know about... not really... God knows. Those things we say or do when we think no one else can see or hear... God knows, he sees all, and he hears everything. Does this give you comfort or does it scare you to death? I think if we were honest, it's probably pretty scary to think that God sees everything we do.

Proverbs 15:3 says...
(3) The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.

Hebrews 4:13 says...
(13) Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Think about the things we try to hide from other people. We'll try so hard to portray ourselves in a different light or image to others hoping they don't see how we really are, yet we won't even give thought to the one that really matters and that's God. No matter how hard we try to cover up, God sees it all and he alone (not our friends or other people) he alone is whom we are accountable to. We've got it backwards. We shouldn't worry what our friends or others think, we should be more concerned about what God thinks about our actions and our thoughts. Are our motives pure or selfish? Do we act one way alone at home but completely different on Sunday mornings in church? One things for sure, God knows.

Finding Rest


In my line of work the Holidays are my busiest time of year. Time seems to fly by and it seems I have very little time in every day to do all that I need to get done. I think most people feel the same way during the Christmas Holiday season. A lot to do in a very short amount of time. Finding rest is something that escapes me and after the Holidays are over... I'm beat and exhausted and desperately in need of some rest. It's like I've been running on battery power and I have about 5% power left and if I don't get plugged in real quick to recharge, I'll shut down.


Today I came across this verse that really helped me.
Psalm 91:1 says...
(1) Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Another reminder that if we'll simply seek shelter from the hectic and chaotic world we live in under the shadow of our Almighty God, He will give us rest. I think the rest comes from surrender, I think the rest comes from knowing that God is in control, I think the rest comes from the peace of the Holy Spirit. To be under the shadow of the Most High, means that we are under His protection. There's great comfort in this and there is peace that restores our body.

Simply put, by dwelling and abiding in Him... no matter how intense and crazy it gets, by entrusting ourselves to his protection and pledging our daily devotion to him, we will be kept safe and get the rest we need.
Are you plugged into the power source or are you running off battery power? I've never seen a battery sustain power on it's own. Eventually it must be recharged. You and I are the same way. Today... find time to spend with the Most High and rest, recharge.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

That's not possible


Can you imagine an angel of the Lord telling you that you are going to give birth to the son of God? "But I'm a virgin," Mary says! No big deal... the angel says, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the son of God"... Mary faints and eventually wakes and reflects on the craziest dream she's ever had. Well, not exactly the way it happened, but the only part of my little story that makes sense at all is the part where Mary faints and thinks it's a dream. You see, the part that is true, is like...wow... unbelievable. The part that is not true, makes sense.
Luke 1:26-35 (the birth of Jesus foretold)

The bible is full of stories and events that happened, but in our own wisdom, there's just no way they can happen. They just don't make sense. A virgin birth! Impossible! Well nothings impossible with God. Those of us that have faith, know this to be true. It's not what we see, or what we can understand... it's what we know God can do. We don't have to see to believe, we don't have to understand to be assured that all things are possible with God.

Luke 1:36-38
And the angel continues to say... Oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you... You remember your relative Elizabeth? Yes she's very old and everyone says she's barren and can't have children, but guess what? She is pregnant too! She's right now in her sixth month. You see... nothing is impossible with God!

I can only imagine Mary's excitement and extreme confusion at all that was happening. How can this be? It's impossible! But Mary had faith in God. If God said it would happen, then it would. When Mary and Elizabeth reunited there was great joy and excitement between them as they both acknowledged what God was doing.
Luke 1:39-45

Nothing is impossible with God... all you have to do is believe that God will do what he says he will do. That's why we know that our prayers will be heard. That's why we know we have eternal life! The next time you think, "That's not possible." Remember with God, it's possible. The bible is filled with promises of what God says he will or can do for each of us. The only requirement is that we believe He can.

May God bless you this Christmas! Many folks are going through some trying times. Loss of loved ones, facing surgery or other health issues, so many people out of work or just not able to make ends meet anymore. Just remember, with God, anything is possible. You don't have to understand how it can work out, just trust that God can do what he says and hold fast to his promises. Keep the faith.

God bless you all, and have a Merry Christmas.

Steve

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's Abraham's faith got to do with me?


The answer to this question is... because God has promised us eternal life through a right relationship with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. Because of ABRAHAM'S faith in God, Abraham was counted as righteous and Abraham's right standing with God is what gives him eternal life. God also made a promise to Abraham because of his faithfulness. God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. Abraham is the father of all who believe and when God counted Abraham as righteous, it wasn't just for Abraham's benefit, it was for our benefit as well assuring us to be counted righteous if we too believe in God, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Romans 4:17-25
(17) That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, "I have made you the father of many nations." This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
(18) Even when there is no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping - believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, "That's how many descendants you will have!"
(19) And Abraham's faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead - and so was Sarah's womb.
(20) Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.
(21) He was convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
(22) And because of Abraham's faith, God counted him as righteous.
(23) And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn't just for Abraham's benefit. It was recorded
(24) for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
(25) He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Amazing... Because of the faith of Abraham, God made a promise to him that allows us to have eternal life as well. So it's because of Abraham's faith in God that we have been given the opportunity to believe, but it's important to know that Abraham's faith saves only himself. It's only by our own faith in God that we can have eternal life.

Romans 4:24
(24) for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
Romans 5:1
(1) Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Romans 5:8-11
(8) But God God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
(9) And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's condemnation.
(10) For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his son.
(11) So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Adam's sin in the beginning brought condemnation to everyone. His one act made us all sinners, but Christ one act of righteousness brings us eternal life if we have faith and believe. God's wonderful grace and his free gift of eternal life are for all who receive it by faith in what Christ did to make us in a right standing with God. His blood washed away our sins.

Romans 5:18-21
(18) Yes, Adams one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.
(19) Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.
(20) God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful grace became more abundant.
(21) So just as sin ruled over all people and brought to them death, now God's wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I thank God for father Abraham! I thank God that Abraham had the faith he did. It wasn't because of Abraham's good deeds that God counted him righteous but because of his faith.

Romans 4:3-5
(3) For the Scriptures tell us, "Abraham believed God, and God counted him righteous because of his faith.
(4) When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.
(5) But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.

Romans 4:13,16
(13) Clearly, God's promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God's law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.
(16) So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.

As a son, I always wanted to grow up to be just like Dad. My Dad set some great examples for me to imitate. To be like my Dad was something I always wanted to be. Even today at my age (48), I think of what my Dad would do in certain situations and circumstances. Well what if we looked at Abraham in this same way. We can look at Abraham's faith and see that there is hope in any situation. No matter how hopeless it looks, faith in God can overcome our hopelessness. What an example Abraham is for each of us. He was tested, he was told he would be the father of many nations yet he was an old man and Sarah was barren, but the bible says that Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger. You see, Abraham's faith set the way for us. For us to be made righteous with God, we must have the kind of faith that Abraham had. We must have the same faith that Abraham had in believing that he would be the father of many nations just because God said it would be. So it is with our own faith in believing that God sent his Son to die on the Cross so that we can have eternal life. Christ's act of righteousness allows God's wonderful grace to be received by all who believe.

So what's Abraham's faith got to do with me? .... everything!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thank God for work

The alarm clock sounds... it's 5:00 AM. You slowly crawl out of bed and make your way to the shower. Got to wake up! Yes, it's another day of heading off to work. How nice it would be just to sleep in. Instead we have to get up and go to work yet another day.

Have you ever felt this way? Ok, I mean have you ever not felt this way? It's tough going to work when we dread it, isn't it? Your job may not be all that you had hoped it would be. It may not be the best hours of the day to work, your place of employment may not even have the friendliest people to work with, but you know what? You have a job. I'm not being sarcastic here, I'm wanting you to see that no matter how bad you think it is... it can be a lot worse. You know, we complain about so many things. At every opportunity when things get tough, we wonder what it would be like to work somewhere else. When your boss is a jerk, we think it's time to move on. When your co workers aren't friendly to each other, we want to move on. When we don't get the hours we wanted to work, we want out.

Let me help you appreciate your job, because if you don't appreciate your job... you really need to. Take a look around. What do you see? Are you blinded by your hurt feelings and disappointments that you don't see that the job you have is helping to put food on the table? It's helping to pay the bills. It is providing some degree of income for your family. What's the alternative? No job? I'm always amazed at how miserable we'll make ourselves with the job we have when we could simply be thankful for it instead. maybe if we realized how fortunate we are we'll appreciate what we've got. It's happens to all of us. The excitement of our employment last a few weeks or months and then we're no longer satisfied. What happened? What changed? We're no longer thankful. We begin to feel like were owed something else. We begin to think the work is too hard. We begin to think our boss is too mean or unfair with his or her expectations. We begin to feel were not appreciated. We begin to fall into the trap of thinking it's always better somewhere else. You know what I've found out over the years? Your job is what you make it! I've never worked for a place that didn't have tough people to work with... my experience... be friendly right back and things usually work out fine. Don't get your feeling hurt and throw away your job because of somebody you can't stand working with. Do all you can to improve the situation, quit expecting them to change, and try that ol change thing yourself. Your the only one that can change things, you have no control over the other person. And remember this... if you quit and move on to another job, my bet bet is his brother works there, or someone just like him anyway. People like that are everywhere. reminds me of when my son was younger and in school. He had a teacher that he could not stand. He felt this teacher always picked on him and would tease him and embarrass him and he became very angry about the way he was being treated. Everyday he would come home from school and complain about this teacher. "What did he want me to do?" Run in there and yell at the teacher? Seems to be what most parents do now days isn't it? But instead I figured this was a good time to teach him a true life lesson. One that I'm sure he'll never forget. I told him that his teacher was the boss, the authority, and you may not like it, but that's the way it is. That's life, and unless she does something illegal or inappropriate you better figure out what makes her happy and quit fighting her. Wait till you get out there in the workplace and you encounter that boss you can't stand. Are you going to quit all the time and run from job to job? No... you figure out what you need to do to please your supervisor. Young people today have the wrong mindset. They think it's "sucking up" to please the supervisor. I call it it performing at work and being appreciated for what I do. Until I become the boss, I work for one. I must understand this or I will fail in my job. I'll always be upset, I'll always have my feelings hurt and I won't go anywhere. I'm surprised at how many people fail to realize that their supervisor is the very person that can perpetuate their career. I guess what I'm trying to say today is that we need to find the good in our job, rather than the bad. Appreciate what we have. We'll be a lot happier and work won't be such a burden.

Not that your boss, teacher, or co workers are your enemy, but what does the bible say about those you have problems with. Love them Jesus says....

Luke 6:27-31
"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The warmth of Son-shine

As the song goes, so should we... "Give thanks, with a grateful heart. Give thanks, to the Holy One, Give thanks, because He's given Jesus Christ His Son." God has given us so much to be thankful for. The blessings are endless if we'll look closely. Sometimes the blessings are overwhelming and quite obvious while at other times they can be hard to see due to all the misery, problems, and difficulties we face. But the blessings from God are always there... even in times of trouble. Every storm blocks out the sunshine, but if you fly up above the storm clouds... the sun is still shining. Sometimes we can't see the blessings from the storms we're going through at the time but that doesn't mean we're not blessed.

Today, my challenge to you is to see past the storm your going through and feel the warmth of the Son-shine on your face. The Son of God, can push through any storm. The Son of God can calm any storm, The Son of God can help you weather every storm. There is nothing like the warmth we get from the Son. Continue to pray and as God answers your prayers don't forget to thank God for answered prayers. Sometimes we wonder why God hasn't answered our prayers. I think, we fail to see the answered prayers sometimes because we didn't get the answer exactly as we had hoped, but that doesn't mean God hasn't intervened in some way to your prayer request. God works out his plans for our lives and he brings us through all storms and difficulties we face. Thanksgiving should be an integral part of our praise to God. Today is Thanksgiving, a time to reflect on the blessings of life and give thanks to the One who provides it all. Count your blessings and Thank God for them.

A Psalm of David, Psalm 138:1-3
(1) I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
(2) I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For you have magnified Your word above all Your name.
(3) In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul.

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

Steve

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Right here, Right now.

What happened yesterday is over... don't dwell on it. Do we learn from it?... yes, but don't dwell on it. Put it behind you and start again. Tomorrow isn't here yet so don't consume all your thoughts for a day that may or may not come. You can focus all your attention on tomorrow and miss today. Today is right here, right now. Today is what matters, this moment in time, right here, right now, yet we worry about the future or focus on the past and miss out on today.

Imagine if we poured ourselves into the here and now. What if we allowed the future to be defined by our actions today? Imagine if we allowed today's application to come from our experiences and learning's from yesterday, how much better would we be?

Whether it's the future or the past that concerns you, today is all you have to do something about it. Whether it's a relationship that you hope will improve, or maybe it's your work, or church, or school, that you hope will become more, today, right here, right now, is the time that God has given you to use wisely. Maybe that time is spent praying or studying? Maybe that time is spent just enjoying God's presence and love, alone time with him? Maybe that time is to say I'm sorry for what I've done to someone I've hurt? Maybe that time is to make a commitment to my career, church, or family.? Maybe that time is to rest and recoup? You get the point... Today is all you have. The truth be known... you might not even have the remainder of today... all you really have is "right here, right now!"

I hope that everyone understands that the differences we make today for our lives and the Lord's Kingdom is in the here and now. If you belong to Christ.... even when your days are done here on earth... you will live on in the presence of God and his love. So there is always a tomorrow for those that belong to Christ, but you only have "right here, right now" to mend relationships, to help someone in need, to love like you know you should, to share what you can to others... the list goes on and on. Simply put... enjoy today! Live as God would have you live, be all that you can be and focus less on the things that have passed and the things yet to come. Live today, right here, right now!

May God's blessing be upon you.

Steve

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Great Leaders set the example for others

Do you have the ability to admit when it's over, when it's done, it's finished? Guess what folks? The election is over! Either your candidate lost or won, either way, the election is over and we will have a new President this coming January.

When I was in the service (US Army) we all understood that whoever won the election, that person was now our new Boss. You see, our Commander in Chief, our senior ranking official, is and always has been the President of the United States of America for all military servicemen and women. I was always amazed that upon the day the new President took office, everyone looked upon our new Commander in Chief as just that. He was now in charge. The interesting thing about being in the military is that we all have respect for the system and the different levels of rank and authority. It was just taught and understood that when you were given orders by your commanding officer, you didn't ask why, you didn't complain, you simply said.... "Sir, Yes Sir."

Maybe it's because of my past experience in the military that I can say with all honesty and sincerity... It's time to move on past the election and prepare ourselves to support our new President of these great United States. Although I've never seen anything quite like these elections and the emotional connections to both of these candidates, when it's all said and done, the people have spoken and have elected a new President. I can relate to John McCain as a fellow veteran, even though his service and mine were not at all the same. My sacrifice for this country was nothing compared to his. When I think about what he went through for his country, when I see how hard he fought to try and win this election, when I listened to his concession speech, I was reminded of how thankful and proud that I am to be an American. I was reminded of how important it is we support our new President and unite as a country and as Americans. John McCain, the great leader that he is, knows that we must transition from the race to win, to the race to join together and unite. Great leaders always set the example for others to follow and John McCain did that for everyone who supported his candidacy. He said that he called Senator Barrack Obama and congratulated him on his victory and then he did something that shows the whole world his true love for our country. He pledged to do all he can to help his new President in his quest to help our country move forward. In other words... I'm here for you! You can count on me.

Where do you stand? What's your pledge?

May God bless the United States of America.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I can't do any more

I realize that through my efforts to motivate and encourage others, sometimes a list of do's and don'ts is not what someone needs to hear, yet most of my posts are about doing something different, trying something new to jump start ourselves into action and be about our Father's business. But in my efforts to challenge you to do something, I realize that sometimes we can reach a place where we've already tried that. We've tried being better, we've tried setting time aside for the Lord and devotion or quiet time, we've tried reading our bible more, we've tried praying more often than before, we done the list that everyone throws our way and yet, we still see no results from our efforts and we're exhausted and tired from giving it our best and still getting no where.

If you find yourself in this place or if you've been there before (we've all been there)... this post is for you.

Sometimes we simply come to the place where we say... "I can't do any more." I'm exhausted, I'm weak, I'm so tired. Everything I've tried hasn't worked, I can't do any more... I'm done.

It's in moments like these that we must know that even though we can't go on, we've had enough... we must remember that the Lord never grows faint or weary. He understands everything that is going on within you and if you call upon him he will give you strength, he'll give you power over your weakness. You see, we desperately want to fix things. We think we can fix this and fix that, try harder here and this will improve and that will get better, but it doesn't always work out that way and we get so discouraged and tired of our fruitless efforts. Then you read a post like I've written in the past that says study more, pray more, read more, do more and everything will get better and you know, sometimes it will. Sometimes that's what God expects us to do, is do those things that we haven't been doing and through them we'll grow closer and be more obedient to following His direction for our lives... but sometimes we do those things and nothing happens, nothing works and we wonder... what am I doing wrong? Where is God in all of this?

The good news is that God never tires, he never gets weary, he never loses strength, He is everlasting and when we wait upon Him, call upon him, and put our full faith and trust in him, he will renew our strength in time. We will be able to run again and not grow weary, we will be able to walk and not faint, he will give us power over our weakness, and one day again, through his power, not ours, we will be able to once again do whatever it is that God leads us to do. It's like we need a time of rest, we need to know that God understands what we're going through, we need to know that He can carry us through the trials and set backs we go through, and finally we need to understand that He knows when we can't do any more. He knows when we've had enough, he knows when we have no more strength, he sees when we're about to faint in our weakness. These following verses were written to comfort Gods people then and they still comfort us today.

Isaiah 40:28-31
(28) Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
(29) He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
(30) Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
(31) But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

You see, even the strongest people get tired at times, but God's power and strength never diminish. He always hears us, listens to us, and he's never too busy or to tired to help us. His strength is our source of strength and when you feel like life is crushing you and you cannot go one more step, remember that you can call upon God to renew your strength. My prayer for you is that you will know the difference between doing the things that God wants you to do, and knowing when you can't do any more because you have nothing more to give. May you wait upon the Lord for renewed strength and hopefully begin running the race again with the strength and energy that only God can sustain.

God bless you.

Steve

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vote

One person makes a difference. It's the collective of all the votes that determines the outcome. The worst thing people can do is think this way... "Well I'm only one person, it really doesn't matter if I vote or not."

Just a few weeks ago I participated in a fund raising event for CMN (Children's Miracle Network) I was locked inside a makeshift jail cell at work and I had to raise $1,000 to get out. As the customers passed by I would let them know that I was raising money for Children's Miracle Network and I'd ask if they could donate to help the kids at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville TN. Most would dig in their purse or reach into their pockets and look for any change they might have on them. Some gave dollar bills but truthfully most gave pocket change. Every single time a customer gave me their pocket change they apologized and said I know it's not much, I'm sorry. I'd quickly thank them and remind them that it all adds up and I appreciate their donation so much. We raised $1056 in about a 7 hour time frame and when we added up the money, $228 of the total came from pennies, nickles, dimes, and quarters! Over 20% of the total came from the people that thought their donation didn't matter. My point... Vote this Tuesday. Your vote does matter, it does count, and you have a responsibility to be an engaged citizen.

Read the following verses:
1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Just as you are a member of the body of Christ and you do matter, you are important and you do have a function and responsibility within the body of Christ. So it is that you matter to others within your family, your community, your city, state, and country. Vote... this Tuesday. You do make a difference!

Note... I in no way mention who to vote for... that decision must be made by you and the Lord as your guide. Pray about it. Seek the Lords council... then VOTE. Either way the election turns out, know this... at least you cast your vote, you played your part in the decision process instead of leaving it up to everyone else to decide your future government. You know, there are many Christians that are Democrats, many that are Republicans, and many that are Independents. My hope and prayer is that Christians will vote. People that are lead by God will vote. Then either way it goes, at the very least, Christians had a voice in the political process, at most... Godly people elected the President of the United states of America.

See you at the polls,

Steve

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good Morning God

Some people wake up and say... Good morning God, others wake up and say... Good God, It's morning. So which one are you? Do you dread mornings? Dread the beginning of yet another day at the office? Are you struggling to get the energy to fight through another day? Sometimes it's hard to stay motivated isn't it?

Something that can help with our outlook on the new day is to make a choice on which phrase were going to say when we wake up each morning. "Good Morning God," or "Good God, It's Morning." One of these phrases reflect a positive attitude that thanks God for a new day, the other is our negative perspective on what we think the day's going to be like. We're doomed from the very start of the day if we don't choose to say... "Good Morning God!" That single choice of welcoming in the new day with a greeting to God can set the pace for great things to come during the rest of the day. We can choose to have a good day, or we can choose to have a bad day. It really is our choice. The only time you don't have a choice to be positive is if you give up, then you become a victim to circumstances. Every circumstance that comes your way, you must face. You can tackle it head on or you can say, here we go again and throw up your hands in defeat. The choice is yours to make on how you are going to react. It really is. So what can we do to stay positive even though were bombarded with negative thoughts or issues.

1. Begin your day with the Lord. Good Morning God. Thank you for another day of life. Today is going to be great because your my Father and I'm your child. You can deliver me through all trials today if I'll just look to you for guidance and direction. There's great comfort in knowing your not facing the day alone and no matter what happens today, it was no surprise the God. It may have caught me off guard, but the God knew it was coming, so I can trust he's already got a plan for me to get through it.

2. Begin your day with alone time with God. Read a devotion, read the bible, meditate on his word. Make this a daily routine (a habit). Beginning the day with alone time with God helps clear your head. It's important to give the very first part of your day to the Lord, and it sets the precedence for the rest of the day. No matter whats happens today, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Allow God to show you his will and direction for you in your bible study. Allow God to speak to you through the scriptures. Sometimes it's amazing how a situation that you'll face today, you'll recall God's word speaking to you through the situation because of this alone time first thing in the morning. Some situations simply require that we love rather than fight, and without God's love flowing through us, well we could make the situation worse. God gives us the proper mindset for the day if we'll seek him first in the day.

3. Begin your day with prayer. Take everything to the Lord in prayer first thing in the morning. Talk to him, listen to him, share with him, and allow him to comfort your soul.

4. Go live out the rest of the day for the Lord. Pray throughout the day...stay connected to the source of power that can overcome all obstacles and issues that are thrown your way. God is in control of this day and all it brings... you are not alone. Will it be hassle free? Most likely not. Can you remain positive thorough it? Yes you can.

You know the happiest people on earth should be Christians. We have eternal life. We have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We have a relationship with God the Father through his Son Jesus and he never leaves us or forsakes us. We're blessed everyday simply out of his love for us. We have power within us to overcome any obstacle thrown our way so we should be able to rejoice. But often, we do not reflect the joy we have to others. We're angry because of what's happening, we're sour because we've been treated wrong. Something unfair happened to me so I'm sad and disappointed and blame God for my problems. And sadly, we run out the door first thing in the morning already defeated because we didn't begin our day with... "Good morning God." Our attitude towards our Lord determines if we'll depend on him today, or go it alone on our own. Begin your day tomorrow differently... Focus on God first then let the day happen. You'll be better prepared to handle what comes and you won't feel alone as your handling it. Let God handle it through you. Your day will be more positive and you feel so much better at the end of it. May God bless you on your daily walk. Just don't walk alone. It's not safe out there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Are you productive?

What are you doing with what God has given you? God gives us resources according to our abilities and he expects us to invest those resources and gifts he's given us until he returns. We are responsible to use well what God has given. There is a parable in the bible that speaks directly to this. It's found in Matthew 25:14-30

Matthew 25:15 "And to one he gave five talents, to another he gave two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

God gives us everything we need to accomplish all that he expects for us to do. He sees what our own abilities are, and then with our abilities and his resources, his power, his strength, and his Spirit, we should build what we've been given so that upon his return, we can show him the result of what we've done. God expects us to think, to act, and to produce. God knows what he can trust us with and he does expect results. There were three men in this passage of scripture in Matthew 25:14-30 that the master gave his money (talents) to. Each man according to his own ability was given just enough money that the master knew he could handle. Then the master went on a journey. It was while this master was on the journey that the men were to be productive what they had been given. According to the scriptures there is no indication as to how this was to be done, it appears that it's entirely up to the men to decide what they are going to do. Two of the men through their efforts had gained twice as much money to give the master upon his return. One did nothing with what he had been given. He simply returned the money that he was given. He had buried it and did nothing to make it grow. Upon the masters return he was very pleased with the two that had been productive, but with the one that did nothing, he was very upset.

We see a little insight to this third man's reasoning for doing nothing. He was afraid. He knew that the master would come back expecting more and he was afraid that he might lose what he had been given and upon the masters return he would have less money or even worse, nothing to give back... so his fear kept him from doing anything at all. So he hid it so that he would be able to give it back to the master when he returned. What happened when the master returned? The master became very upset with the servant because he wasn't productive and he took what he had trusted him with and gave the money to the man that was most productive with what he'd been given.

Matthew 25:24-28 (24) "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. (25) "And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours." (26) "But his lord answered and said, "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. (27) So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest." (28) "Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents."

So why was the master so upset with this servant? Why was he so hard on him? The answer lies in Matthew 25:15. He gave the talents to each... according to his own ability. You see this master knew that this servant could be productive, he knew that he could have done better. The master gave him only one talent because he knew that it was within his ability to handle. But the servant did nothing with it and instead returned it back with no gain.

So what does this mean for us?
It simply means that we are to use our talents, gifts, and abilities diligently in order to serve God completely in whatever we do. It simply means doing our daily work out of love for the Lord. The last man was playing it safe. If God is calling us to do something , we need to do it. If God is truly our Master, we must willingly obey. This is an example of how God rewards faithfulness. Those who bear no fruit for God's kingdom cannot be expected to be treated the same as those who are faithful. The person who diligently prepares for Christ return by investing his or her time and talent to serve God will be rewarded. Just remember this... God knows your ability. He will give you the resources to be able to do what he already knows you can do. Serve the Lord with all your heart and enter into the "Joy of your Lord."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's your plan?

Do you have goals for your life? Do you have long range goals that you hope to achieve within say, ten years or so? Do you have short range goals that you hope to achieve within this next week, or maybe over the next month or two? So what are your plans? Do you have a plan? Do you have dreams that you'd like to see come about in the future? What are you doing to make those dreams a reality?

When you think about those questions, your answers may be like mine... You realize that some dreams have come true and others have not. Priorities have changed due to circumstances of life and now you have new hopes and dreams. Maybe you still have a deep yearning to achieve the dreams or dream you've had for years, but you are frustrated that it hasn't come to pass and you feel like giving up. God promises to help us. He will direct our steps as we seek to accomplish our goals. There's one very important thing we must do first however, and that is... "Make a plan and then act on it."

Proverbs 16:9 says this.. A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

Have you ever found yourself praying for God to help you achieve this goal or that goal only to sense that it's just not ever going to happen. You wonder why your prayers are failing. You never see any evidence that your making progress towards your dream. Sure, you believe that God can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, but there you sit, no dreams coming true. It's discouraging and at times can even test our faith. My question to you is this... "What are your plans to make it come true?" "What are you doing about it?"

In my line of work nothing ever just happens. If I want to achieve sales, I have to have a plan on what to do to achieve sales. If I want to have a wonderful relationship with my wife, I have to have a plan on what I'm going to do to ensure that I make progress on my relationship with my wife. If I want to be promoted within 5 years, then I have to have a plan that I'm working to make progress towards reaching my goal of getting promoted within 5 years. I've heard it said many times over the years... "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." What about your spiritual walk? What plans do you have there. If I want to have a better relationship with the Lord I must develop a plan that I can work to start making progress in improving my relationship with the Lord. I've actually said a prayer something like this (see if it sounds familiar)... "Dear Lord, help me to be a better Christian, a better witness, a better husband, a better"... you fill in the blank." "If the Lord would speak to me he'd probably say... sure, make a plan and start doing something and I'll direct you on what to do next."

Proverbs 16:9 gives us some insight to how this works. Make a plan and get to work on your plan, as you proceed with your plan, God will direct your steps. So often we want to reach a goal yet we sit and wait (while praying and believing) for God to drop it into our lap. It doesn't work that way. God expects for us to use the brain he's given us and make a plan to move towards our goals and dreams. If we want to see the supernatural "Big dreams that we just can't see happening" come true, then we need to plan and act upon that plan with our natural ability and then let God direct us and help us achieve our goals with His supernatural ability. That's why it's important to have long range goals. Goals that you can dream of achieving one day, but deep down you know it's going to take God's involvement for it to happen. As you plan and work your plan, you will make progress towards your goal. The goal you set is the end result. There are lots of little goals along the way that we can celebrate as we achieve them, but as we achieve each short range goal, we get closer and closer to our long range goal.

How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time, that's how! Imagine how difficult of a task this would be. It would appear impossible, but with each bite we get closer and closer to our goal. Finally through a series of achieving smaller goals by being persistent we reach our ultimate goal of eating the whole elephant.
So... if you want to be successful at whatever it is that you feel God is leading you to do. Draw up a plan of how you think you can get there. Then step out in faith and work your plan. Remember, God can not direct your steps, if you haven't even moved. Step out and work your plan and see how God directs your steps. He may allow you to intersect with the right people that can help you in your career. He may open the door to a particular job or event that can help you accomplish your goals. One things for certain. A man's heart plans his way, then the Lord directs his steps. Let's get moving!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Where did you go?

My apologies for not writing. As I begin to write, my grand daughter just realized I wasn't around and came looking for me! So right now I have my Grand daughter hanging on my leg saying, "Pa Pa, Pa Pa." Kind of hard to ignore you know. So I'll stop here and go play for a while until she gets tucked into bed, then it's almost time for me to get tucked into bed, and so it goes about every single evening after work. So my writing suffers I know. But I have joy in these wonderful times spent with her and my family. Got to go... I promise I'll sit down to write soon...

God Bless

Steve

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bath Time

My little granddaughter loves "bath time." I don't think she really enjoys getting clean as much as she does playing with those wonderful bath toys. Occasionally I'll have the opportunity as her Grandpa to give her a bath, and usually she splashes around so much that I'm usually soaking wet, but we sure have fun! After her bath she always smells very clean and she seems to feel better as well. Basically she's ready for another day...clean, fresh, and ready to go!

Can you imagine how we would look or smell if we never washed? Over time we would look pretty rough. We'd begin to smell bad, look bad, and feel dirty and filthy. If we didn't wash, we know we wouldn't get cleaner... but only filthier with each passing day until finally we jumped in the shower and cleaned up. I think it's safe to say that everyone understands the importance of taking a bath regularly. It's pretty easy to see what happens when we don't. Well the same is true with sin in our lives. Just as we would wash up with soap and water to clean our bodies, we also need spiritual cleansing as well to remove the filth of our sin.

Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, "I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?"

None of us is without sin. We have our old nature and our new nature at war with each other every moment of every day until we have gone to be with the Lord in that place (heaven) where there is no sin that can tempt us. Until then, we will fall into sin. The very moment we confess and repent of our sin, sinful thoughts and actions begin to creep right back into our lives. We all need ongoing cleansing, moment by moment. Thank God that through His mercy we are forgiven when we ask for it. Just as this verse says... Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" None of us that's for sure... the heart can only be cleansed by God, not us. The sad reality is that even when we've been forgiven we still sin again. This reminds me of Paul when he wrote...

Romans 7:19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Paul understood how sin invaded his life everyday. He knew some of his thoughts or actions were not of God, and even though this really bothered him he admitted that he still keeps doing the things he knows he shouldn't. Now I'm not saying we should just sit back and say "Oh well, why try then?" The difference is in knowing that we're wrong and we know better. This was on Paul's conscious just like it is yours and mine. So since we can not clean our own heart, we must seek cleansing at all times from the only One that can cleanse. We know that we do not do the good we always want to do, rather we do the evil that we don't want to do. We seem to keep on doing it.

There's good news for you and I. God loves us and he understands us. We need to make confession and repentance a regular part of our talks with God and rely on him moment by moment for the cleansing we need. So, the next time you get that distant feeling or you feel like you've lost your focus on Christ... maybe it's "bath time."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Encouragement, we all need it

I don't know about you, but nothing picks me up like a word of encouragement from someone else. I can be feeling overwhelmed at work, at home, in church, then suddenly a friend will write a wonderful note or say a kind word of encouragement that just simply washes away all those negative feelings I was having. It's amazing what kind words can do.

You probably know that the command to encourage others is found throughout the Bible and when we look at 1 Thessalonians 5:11-23 we see where Paul gives many examples of how we can encourage others. As I read these verses I'm reminded of the impact we have on others when we build them up, when we hold them up when they're weak, or when we simply lend a helping hand or a word of encouragement to help restore their faith and give them the confidence to press on. Let's look at a few of the ways that we can practice this wonderful word of encouragement.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another..."
I think back just a few weeks ago to the Olympics. As I watched the marathon race, I saw the pain and agony in the runners faces as they approached the finish line. They were a mile out from the finish line and many were limping along barely able to continue running but when they finally got inside the stadium and heard the cheers of the crowd that were watching the race, I was amazed at the renewed strength and energy they had during this last moment in the race. As Christians were to encourage one another. A word of encouragement can give someone just the strength they need to continue on to the finish line. It can be the difference between finishing well or collapsing along the way. We all need encouragement every day, and we need to offer support to others every day through kind words or actions. As Paul says... "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another..."

1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 "...Recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you and esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake..."
This verse probably refers to leaders in the church such as elders, deacons, and Pastors. One of the greatest ways we can help the church, is to support our leaders, To encourage them and lift them up in high regard for their work's sake. Imagine the toil of serving through the church and how frustrating that could be. These leaders are called to serve yet time and time again they feel like the runner in the marathon race and they 're not anywhere near the end of the race yet, but feel like quitting, the pains too great, they're weak, they begin to wonder if they should even be in this race? Where do they get their strength? From God of course, but He can use us to encourage them. When we say... thank you, when we tell them we appreciate them for what they do, then they have reason to be encouraged. Tell them how you have been helped by their leadership and teaching. Let them know their ministry in your life has made a difference. Remember our leaders need our love and support.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 "... Be at Peace among yourselves."
Especially in the church but also at home, at work, and everywhere we go, we need to look for ways to get along with others. The spirit within us seeks peace and harmony with others. One of the best ways to encourage someone is to get along and not fight or argue. We can agree to disagree without resorting to being disrespectful towards one another.


1 Thessalonians 5:14 "... Comfort the fainthearted..." "Uphold the weak..." "Be patient with all."
Many of us grow weary in our service. Sometimes we even think we just can't keep up the work, were tired and weak. We can fall into the trap of believing that we're not able to go anymore. Maybe we feel overwhelmed. We might feel like a failure in our weakness. It's times like these when we need to experience comfort from a friend. As Christians we can remind others about the promises that God has for them in scripture. We need to lift them up and give them some support and one way we can do this is to be patient with them. We don't know what they're going through, only God does. They just need a friend, someone to remind them that they can do this and I'm here with you.


1 Thessalonians 5:15 "See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone."
Revenge can be a very destructive thing. Have you ever seen what happens when someone takes revenge on another person. usually the revenge comes after evil or wrong doing has been done. Were just not going to take it are we? So what do we do? We pay them back with the same evil or wrong doing to get even. "Turn the other cheek" not this time baby... you've gone to far. Paul says that we should never repay evil with evil but rather we should pursue what is good both for ourselves and for all. Revenge just tears us apart. We can't rebuild relationships and begin again if were planning our next act of vengeance. If your feeling this way, seek the Lords council. Talk to a friend about your feelings, but know that Jesus wants you to do good to those that hurt you. It's a way for them to see the love of Christ and this type of behavior goes against the way of the world. It's one of the best forms of encouragement because it's unexpected and undeserved. So the next time you're thinking about getting even, do good instead and allow God to touch their heart... and yours.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 "Rejoice always"
Sounds simple enough doesn't it, but oh so hard to practice sometimes. Especially during difficult trials and circumstances. I can't tell you how encouraged I've become by watching another brother or sister in Christ experience joy and have peace during the turmoils of their life. We can be such a wonderful encouragement to others when they see in us the joy that only the Lord can provide when we go through tough times. We send the message that we know that God is always with us and He's in control. That's why we can rejoice always.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing"
God is always with us, we need to talk to him. We need to pray for others as well. There is nothing more encouraging for another Christian than to know that they are being prayed for by others. We understand that God hears and answers our prayers. Sometimes the only comfort we can offer to another is prayer. We don't know what to say to help them, we don't really understand their hurt or pain, but we trust that God does and we can always offer up prayers of support. I remember the day I had my four wheeler accident in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I didn't return home and my wife knew that something was terribly wrong. She ran to the neighbors house and asked the boys to start searching for me on their motorcycles because the last time she had seen me was earlier that morning as I rode my four wheeler up the side of the mountain. She feared the worst. The next thing she did was call a few of her friends and asked them to start prayer chains. Churches were called and members all over were praying for me. We had only been visiting churches, we hadn't become members yet, but churches all over were praying for us because our friends belonged to several different churches and they made those calls and asked everyone to pray for me. Because of my injuries I was unable to move so I lay there all day in the cold wet snow. I was found right about dusk suffering from hypothermia. I had my accident around 11:00AM and it was around 30 degrees and was snowing. I know I would not have made it through the night, and I know that those prayers offered up for me saved my life and I definitely know it was the only Hope my wife felt she had in a situation where she felt so out of control. Thank God for those prayers. Let's never cease praying. We must talk to God about everything and through those prayers we'll see God work.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "Give Thanks"
We need to make a list of all the things we're thankful for, then give thanks to God for each one. It's too easy to only see the bad, and miss out on the good. There's a song... "Count your blessings name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done." When we count our blessings I'm sure we'll see those people that God has put in our path that have encouraged and blessed us along life's journey. Let them know how you feel about them, this can encourage them and motivate them to keep on being the wonderful person they already are. Most importantly... thank God for them as well. It's amazing how people with the love of Christ inside of them are able to show acts of God's love through their kindness and actions. Thank God for those people. Let's give thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 "Do not quench the Spirit."
If you want to be an encourager you need to realize that our actions can and do quench the Spirit of God in ourselves and in others. Any time we do not cooperate with the Spirit we quench it. Disobedience will quench the Spirit and can harm our daily walk with he Lord. The next time the Spirit prompts you to say a kind word, share the gospel, or to simply go to church when you thought about staying home, follow through and fuel the fire of the Spirit within you. No warmth comes from a fire that has had water doused on it. It's the same with us as Christians. For us to be a light in a dark world or the warm of comfort to others during those cold storms of life, we must not quench the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 "Abstain from every kind of evil"
We must always be on the lookout for situations that draw us into temptation and when we recognize those situations, we should run the other way. We can not encourage others as God would want us to, when we're falling deeper and deeper in sin because we did not abstain from evil. It's difficult to allow the fruit of the Spirit to shine through us to others when we've played with sin. Evil can harm our testimony and our witness. Let's seek God's help to overcome and avoid those situations where evil reigns.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We realize that the Christian life is to be lived not in our own strength but through God's power. We know we can't be encouraging to others except through God's love and power. In our own weakness we're selfish, but through God's love we offer up sacrifice for others, we encourage one another in God's love and we allow the Spirit of God to shine through us and give hope to others that are lost, or struggling in their walk of faith.

The Thessalonian church was young and they needed help and encouragement. Both the persecution they faced and the temptations of their sinful culture were problems for these new Christians (just as it is for us today). Paul wrote to strengthen their faith and build up their resistance to this persecution and temptation. We too have a responsibility to help new believers and encourage those already walking in faith with the Lord. These verses simply help us to be better equipped to help our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can use these verses as a "encouragement checklist" so to speak. So ask yourself, "How are you doing?" My prayer is that you will experience the fullness of God's love upon you and you'll be the encourager that God wants you to be. Encouragement... we all need it!

God bless you in your service.
Steve

Thursday, October 9, 2008

All is well

Things are going well for Eric, Marcie, Halle, Ryan, Brenda and I. We're all one big happy family here. It's been good having Eric home. Good news! Eric begins working Monday next week! Prayers are being answered and we truly are doing well. Halle has really enjoyed getting to know her daddy. This picture was taken his first few days home.

My family situation reminds me of when I lived in Germany in 1979. The Germans always had many in their family living in the same house. Often they would have two story homes with a basement apartment as well. The grand parents lived on the top floor apartment. The children lived on the main floor of the house and another sibling would take up residence in the basement... if they didn't have another child living in the basement then they might rent it out to someone else outside the family to help pay the bills. That's where Brenda and I came in. We lived in the basement of a very nice families home that we got to know and love. We had a wonderful landlord, Ms. Weis, and she lived upstairs while her son and his family lived on the main floor. Anyway... our house now reminds me of those days. Sometimes Brenda and I think about the days when we'll be able to call this home our own. But we both know we'll miss our family, the meal times and being able to be together. We instead, plan to enjoy it while it lasts, because we do know things will change one day.

Thanks for your prayers, and I'm sorry I haven't written in a while. I'll try and do better.

Steve

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Slow Down

In my line of work, I have to take time out of my busy day to tour my store. I must stop everything I'm doing, and slowly walk the store 4 foot by 4 foot in different areas of the store looking at things from a customers perspective. I also need to look at things as my supervisor would see them. I have to ask myself, "If I was a customer shopping this section of the store... what would my shopping experience be like?" I also ask myself as I'm walking, "How do things look from a Corporate standpoint?" "Am I following and executing corporate direction in my store?" Touring allows me to see things I normally wouldn't if all I did was stay busy dealing with the critical issues of the day. I must have a routine that I follow and there must be time scheduled during my routine for focused tours or I won't really see what's going on.

Today during my tour I asked a department mgr if she knew why she had the wrong sign on a display of merchandise she had on sale? It was an old sign that we don't use anymore... our signing has changed to a new look, yet here this one was. All of her other signing was correct but for this one display. She said, "Well I just didn't see it. I missed it." I asked her again to think why that happened? She still didn't understand what I was asking her. I said... "I know why you didn't see it. It's because you're so busy... you have this to do and that to do and you're trying so hard to get all you have to get done in a day done, that you run right past it everyday because you're focused on doing your job well and trying to get it all done." She smiled and said, "You're right." I explained that's why it's so important for me to come along once in a while and slow you down and have you tour with me so that we can see things differently, from a different perspective if you will. When we slow down, and walk through just looking at things and observing things we see more clearly, we know where we stand, and we can make a list of things to do and get done. If we don't slow down and take a look, we'll run right past it over and over again.

The point is this... I wasn't upset that I found the sign, it's not really about the sign at all. The point is that we'll walk past stuff all day long until we stop what were doing then slowly move forward looking at things from a different perspective. There's a verse that reminds me of how important this is. Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God."


You know the same thing happens with our spiritual walk every day if we're not careful. We can get so busy with all that we have to get done each day that we forget about what's really important... the things of God. We have to be still (slow down and stop everything for a minute) and know that He is God. There have been times that I've missed out on an intimate relationship with my Lord because I'm just too busy. Well just as my store begins to look messy if I don't stop everything and refocus on things... so does my life, it gets messy. I'm thankful that even while I'm at work God is teaching me things along the way. Today it was... "Just like you take time to stop and tour each day in your store... Don't forget to do the same thing with Me." The results are the same. If I neglect my Lord, things get messy. I won't see the things that hinder my witness, I won't see the trap of sin coming my way, I won't see the Lord at all... I'll just be running around trying to do a good job and that just doesn't work well. It's hard to do the Lord's work if you're not connected to the source. Just like it's hard to run a store like it should be if you don't stop once in a while and refocus and really look at it.

My lesson today... Read the bible, study His word. Seek what it is the Lord wants to reveal to you today and act upon it. SLOW DOWN, be sure quiet time is in your daily routine, or you'll miss stuff that you should have seen. Do you want your life to reflect the Lord? Then slow down and refocus on Him. As the Lord says... "Be still, and know that I am God."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Northside, a special place in my heart.

For the last 13 years I've been attending Northside Baptist Church in McMinnville TN and when I think about this church and the people I've gotten to know over the years, it's with great sorrow that the time has come for me to say goodbye. My last Sunday at Northside will be September 28th, 2008. I'm not leaving on bad terms, but good ones! I'm not leaving because I want to but since I'm living an hour away, it's best I find a local church within the community I now live in. It's difficult to meet and make new friends outside of a loving church sometimes, so we welcome the opportunity to visit other churches within the area we now live. Saying all that... I will miss Northside.

My Pastor is a wonderful loving and caring man. Three years ago we were blessed at Northside Baptist Church as Tim Miles became our Pastor and I must say I've never worked with anyone that was easier to work with than Tim. As the worship leader each Sunday it was a joy to work with Tim in the planning of our service and music. In the beginning we would meet weekly and plan the service, but as our time together became more and more difficult to schedule, we eventually just called each other and planned over the phone or he'd let me chose the music and lay out the order of worship each Sunday morning as I felt lead. When I moved to Murfreesboro TN then it became almost impossible to meet anymore so he simply trusted my judgement and allowed me to plan the order of worship and the songs each week and he only called me with special instructions for the Lord's Supper or other special services like this. I have seen other worship leaders have issues with their Pastors and this wall between them could always be seen and felt by the other members of the Church. Tim and I have never been at odds with each other and I've always known I had his full support and he's always had mine. He is the kind of Pastor that made my life of service in music a joy, and that's one of the reasons why I hung on so long before finally making the decision that it was time to move on.

There were other reasons I stayed on after moving away in February of this year... I love the people of this church. I had made a commitment to Northside Baptist and I didn't want to leave them shorthanded in the area of worship leader or music minister. I care about what happens at Northside, so I kept up the work even though I knew one day I'd have to quit. There's another reason... I love singing and I love music. I'll miss being the worship leader for Northside and I'll miss singing with them as well. We have a small Choir that has always supported me and I'll miss each of them. Peggy McMurray, and Karen Wood (pianist and organist) both have encouraged me and motivated me to be my best. You see I don't read music. Most of what I do is from ear, so I have to learn the songs by hearing them. They have always worked with me and I can not tell you how much help they have been to me over the years. I could not have done this without these two great people and their awesome talent and ability to help get me through each week. I'll miss Mike McMurray... he operates our sound system for the church and he has encouraged me and helped me with music tracks and great sound. Most of all he's always been there to help me any time I needed it. I will miss Gina Maxwell so much. She and I have been singing together and leading worship together for several years now and even before I became the worship leader, we would sing together doing special music during the morning worship services whenever we were asked. We have sung together now for so many years that I know that I will miss singing with her most of all. I thank God for Gina and her willingness to serve through music in our church. I will miss her greatly. I have to thank Jeremy for all of his help. He is so smart and he knows everything I needed to know about the technical side of worship. He's taught me so much with the computer and how to use the media for the best worship experience possible. I will miss working with Jeremy. He's such a great Youth Pastor for our church and he has a heart for serving God with his talent and abilities. All the people of the church, is what I'll miss. I have grown so much through this church. God had helped me to grow spiritually through Northside baptist Church. The many friends I've made have influenced me and encouraged me. God's allowed me to serve as a Deacon, as a Sunday School Teacher, as a choir member, as a worship team member in a band, as a Men's Ministry leader, as an AWANA leader. God's allowed me to go on mission trips to Brazil, to serve as a new Christians class teacher, and finally to serve as Worship Leader/Music Minister for our church. Northside has been such a blessing to me! Probably the single greatest thing the church has done for me however is to always support me and my family through prayer as we've gone through this most difficult time with our son's addiction and legal issues. This church has always stood by my family and supported us even in our darkest days. I have been blessed and Northside will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you all so much!

One more thought about music in church...
Our service is very blended as far as music is concerned. This did not come easy. I remember the pains of changing music in our church over the years. I'm not saying what we do now is the best, but because of circumstances and God's timing we as a church have learned that music is only a part of worship. True worship comes from our own attitudes towards God the Father, not the songs we sing. We sing the great old hymns from the hymnal and we also sing the great new contemporary praise songs that you hear on the radio today. By blending the music and using both CD tracks or live music and songs with the piano and the organ in each service, we provide music for all ages to worship with. That's what the church is about anyway, all of us, all ages, worshiping together and serving the Lord. A blended style of music in the service is a great way to always be mindful of each other in the body of Christ. Sure we may have favorite songs or styles, but that's not what's important. What's important is that we're all together... unified and focused on Jesus Christ and realizing that music is not what it's about... it's about our relationship with Jesus and our willingness to serve and obey His will in our lives. It's about our willingness to be concerned for the lost of our community and always be reaching out to them so they too can have eternal life through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Think about this... The church building can be beautiful, the songs wonderful, the preaching magnificent, the programs all the best and latest thing... but if we're not telling the lost about Jesus... then all we've done is create a country club for ourselves to enjoy. Everything we do as a church has to be done with one purpose in mind... Will what we do help someone who is lost become a follower of Christ? That's the question we need to answer isn't it?

Northside Baptist church has a rich and long history made up of some wonderful people whom have come and gone through the years. For those who remain and for those yet to join this wonderful church... Northside is a place to grow spiritually if you'll allow yourself to be used by God. I challenge you, wherever you attend church. To be willing to go where God needs you. It will not be where you think most times. It will most always be outside of your comfort zone (this way you'll stay humble) but you can do anything, anything at all, that God calls you to do. It's through His strength that we can do all things! God bless you in your service, and God bless Northside Baptist!

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Your brother in Christ... Steve

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

It's been a wonderful week. Eric is finally home and we are together once again as a family. I was able to get Eric out of jail at 6AM Monday morning (8th of Sept) and bring him home before I left for Dallas TX on a business trip. I was able to spend a few hours with Eric and this made me feel so much better about leaving town on the day he got out. I praise the Lord for this opportunity. It turns out that I was the very last person to arrive in Dallas for our Company meetings that day. Isn't it amazing how God worked all this out. I didn't have to leave for the airport till 12 noon and Eric got out at 6AM to give me time to be with him. When I arrived at Dallas a representative from our Company was there to greet me and five others who were on the same flight. He said you are the last ones in for the day. The last six out of several thousand flying in for this meeting!... This was the first time that I didn't fly out early morning, I've been attending these meetings twice each year for over 15 years now and I've never before been scheduled to leave after noon, until now... God just worked it out!

As far as Eric goes, he's doing well. Several of you have asked how he's doing and I apologize for not updating my blog sooner. It's been a very busy week with me being out of town and of course spending my free time with our son Eric has left me very little time to write. Like I mentioned in my last post... we still need your prayers! We've closed one chapter only to begin another. Life as you know, is simply one chapter after the other. One chapter has it's pain and joys, while another has more of the same I suppose. It's how we react to these different chapters in our lives that will determine how we feel and how much joy we can have. Can a person have joy during suffering without Christ? I can't imagine how, it's hard enough to have joy during suffering with Christ in your life... imagine without? This new chapter in our lives has both, joy and pain. The joy comes from being free from the confinements of jail and being able to enjoy the pleasures of our home and his family. The joy is being with his daughter and seeing them spend time together (she loves her Daddy so much), the pain is in the fact that he is still on house arrest for quite a while and then of course some more probation time after that. Rules, rules, rules... they really never end do they. Rules of the house, rules at work, rules of government and in our society, rules at school, and of course even more rules when you've broken the law in some way and trying to work your way back into society. Rules are very important and if there is one thing we need to do a better job of teaching our youth... that would be following the rules. One things for sure... we will follow them one way or the other. We can obey them voluntarily or be forced to obey them. Rest assured... life is harder if you can not accept that you have rules to follow. A lesson Eric's learned the hard way!

Even with all these rules, I can't tell you how happy we all are. It's great to have Eric home and he's accepted his lot in life and he's going to overcome. He's wanting to go to church but we understand that too will be a privilege later in the upcoming weeks. It's hard to think that I can say life is good under these circumstances, but it is! It's wonderful to have our son back. It's wonderful to see the joy on my wife's face again. It's good to see my youngest son Ryan spending time with his older brother again. We've longed for this day and it came. Thank you Lord Jesus.

Thanks again for all your prayers, I've listed a few prayer requests that we have need of if you would like to pray for some specifics for us.

Eric needs to find work... required for probation.
Eric will not lose heart working on all the rules and restrictions applied to him.
Eric, Marcie, and Halle find a local Church they feel they can grow and be ministered in.
That Brenda and I be the examples that God would want us to be for our family.

God bless you all,
Steve

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One more Day

It's like Christmas for me right now. I wish I could go to bed right now and wake up and the day is over. It's Sunday morning... just a little after midnight Saturday. 30 more hours and I can hold my son Eric once again for the first time in years. I can not wait. My flight for Dallas leaves at 1pm Monday but fortunately for me Eric gets out at 6:00 AM. So of course I'll make the trip to McMinnville one more time to visit the jail, but this time it's to pick up my son and say my goodbyes to that place (refering to the jail).

I ask this of everyone who reads my blog... pray for us. One chapter ends and another begins. The prayers that got us through this chapter can't stop now, it's on to the next chapter of our lives and we need your prayers. If it wouldn't be too much to ask... I'd ask that you never stop praying for us, never! We need you, we love you and we're so thankful for you.

I Thank God for your prayers. I know he hears every prayer.

Psalm 4:3
"But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The Lord will hear when I call."

With much hope and anticipation I call upon the Lord to be with us and guide us in the next few weeks and months. May others that love the Lord pray for us as well because this I do know. The Lord hears us.

Thanks so much,
Steve

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Judge Not!

Jesus teaches us about criticizing others. Basically, we shouldn't do it. We are to read God's word searching for guidance and direction for ourselves, not others. As we read it we're to evaluate ourselves while the Holy Spirit speaks to us through what we've read. So I ask you... What do you hear the Holy Spirit saying when you read the bible?

Read Matthew 7:1-5
"Judge Not"... Jesus says! We are not to judge others but rather, look at ourselves instead. We shouldn't be looking at the life of someone else and criticizing them when if we really looked deep into our own deficiencies and issues we'd realize we have no place to talk. I love the way Jesus teaches us that while we're consumed with the speck (or the little issue) in someones eye that we don't even see or realize that we've got a plank (some major issues) in our own eye to deal with. This kind of judgemental attitude is what Jesus calls hypocritical. It's the attitude that tears others down in order to build oneself up.

It's important that we realize this verse doesn't mean we shouldn't have critical thinking or thoughts, but we are to be discerning rather than negative towards others, that's why Jesus says "First remove the blank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." If we look at ourselves first and realize that we too have issue of sin and disobedience then we won't be so quick to judge others and point out their issues, when we have issues of our own. Who are we after all? The answer to that is of course... "Sinners, saved by grace," just like the one we may be judging. We need to put our trust in the fact that God is the one and only judge in a persons life. If we can overlook another person faults and forgive them just as God has forgiven them and us for our faults, then we now have the opportunity to lovingly help that person.

Remember, we all have bad habits and poor behavior problems. Some are more evident than others and often the one's we see in others may be different than the one's they see in us. But one things' for sure... we all got em. My strengths may be another weakness, while my weaknesses may be anothers area of strength. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all not judge each other but rather build each other up to be all we can be in Christ? To help each other through. Jesus tells us... What goes around comes around so we need to be careful. "Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what measure you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

The next time you read God's word, ask Him to point out your issues, your sin that needs to be overcome. Then as you experience God's Love, Mercy, Grace and forgiveness for your issues and sins, you'll be less likely to be so critical of others going through their issues and sins.

Monday, September 1, 2008

One More Week

Two and a half years later... I'm able to say, "One more week." That's how long it's been since Eric, my son, has been locked up in jail. This Friday will be our last trip to visit Eric in the jail house, our last trip to visit by phone while looking through a TV monitor that separates us from each other. This will be the last week that I won't be able hold or hug my son. This is the last week that Eric will go without holding his daughter. He's watched her grow from an infant to a 19 month toddler all through a TV monitor for an hour or so once each week, no more days of not being able to hold or hug her. His last week without holding his sweetheart, Marcie, and being able to tell her he loves her in person rather than over the phone. Yes, only one more week.

Eric gets out on Monday the 8th of September and of all days... I have to fly to Dallas TX that morning on a business trip so I will not get to see him till I get back Wednesday the 10th. I was sitting here feeling sorry for myself because I was thinking about all the things I was going to miss on the day he gets out. I won't get to hug him or kiss him like his mom and the others will. I won't get to watch him unite with his daughter that he hasn't held since her birth. I won't get to see the relationship build as Halle (his daughter) begins to warm up to her Dad as they get acquainted with each other. I'll miss the expressions on his face when he sits on a soft couch for a change or gets to sleep with a pillow under his head. I'll miss watching as he enjoys eating real food again. I'll miss seiing the joy on his face as he enjoys the things that we all take for granted each day. I think it will be the simple things that he'll enjoy most... like hot coffee, or ice in his water glass. Wearing something other than strips, a hair cut, being able to turn off the lights at night when he goes to sleep, peace and quite for a change, freedom to move around, being able to use the toilet without everyone in the room watching, laying his head on a pillow, listening to music again and watching TV which he hasn't been able to do since being locked up, reading a news paper and hearing the news (time's passed him by the last few years) he's got a lot of catching up to do. Yes all these thing I'll miss the first few days he's out, but as I think about it... I'm so blessed, because I think of all the "first things" that Eric has missed and my first "missed things" pale in comparison to what Eric has missed over the last two and half years. It's pretty selfish of me to be feeling this way isn't it? If he can do it... I can do it! and I wrote all this to make this point...

We can endure anything with the Lord's help. I'm so thankful that everything we experience... even death, is temporary and it all get better one day if we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Two and half years ago I could not imagine this day coming. It was too far off in the future. To me it seemed as if it were an eternity away. But God new this day was coming and He saw that we would make it and that it would be good. He saw the lessons we would learn over the years and He saw this day and this week and He knew we would be here. It gives me great comfort to know that He sees us even two and half more years from now. I wonder where we'll be then? I have no idea, but this I do know. God will be there with us and whatever we experience God will be comforting us in that moment. Imagine 20 years from now, what will I be facing? What will I have been through? What great wonderful experiences will I have been blessed with and what tragic, sad and sorrowful experiences will I have gone through? Will I even be alive in 20 years? You know... I think many of us worry about what the future holds and God simply wants us to know that whatever we go through... it's only temporary and He will always be there with us. It may not have happened like we had hoped or dreamed it would, but in the end, all is good because we're with God. Romans 8:28