Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hope for Restoration

I want to thank Carla for her words of encouragement. Her comments are mentioned on my last posting, "Stop Everything." Carla you reminded me of this verse found in Jeremiah chapter 31:3-4 It reads... Long ago the Lord said to Israel: "I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. I will rebuild you, my virgin Israel. You will again be happy and dance merrily with your tambourines."

This promise isn't only for the tribes of Israel, but for all people who put their trust in God. Restoration is our hope during times when we feel distant or disobedient. God reaches out to us with kindness motivated by His deep and everlasting love for us. As Carla mentions in her comments to encourage me through my trials and weakness, one day, I'll see how God's love carried me through this time. One things for sure, God loves us all with an everlasting love. A love that never quits. The great thing about these verses is that we can see that God loves us so much that he will draw us back to himself. The joy we felt before, the hunger we once had, all will one day be experienced again. We will once again sing and dance and be happy.

Isn't it wonderful to know that the valleys we go through, the ups and downs in our lives, God's main concern is for us to know that He loves us as we are. There's nothing we can do that will ever make him loves us less than He always has and always will. He never leaves us. When we stray He draws us back to himself and restores us to a right relationship with him. It's a promise. With unfailing love God draws us to himself.

Such encouraging words. Thank you Carla. May God keep you happy and dancing with music in your heart.

Your brother in Christ.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stop Everything!

I find myself frustrated with my inability to make the time I know I need, spending time alone with the Lord. As I'm sure you are as well, I'm just so busy. I know this is an excuse and that frustrates me even more. I want to live a more Godly life, yet I don't spend the time I need in bible study or prayer? How can I ever expect to grow and become more fruitful if I'm not attached to the vine? Well I can't.

So then I say things to myself like, "It's my desire to study more and pray more." But the truth be known... if it truly was my desire I would find a way to make this a priority. Again I'm frustrated with myself.

Have you ever looked at yourself and wondered what happened? I remember when I was on fire for the Lord, now it seems that it's all I can do to find the joy in my service that I once had. Do I blame it on my recent move to a new city. Let's see what excuses I can conjure up for that one. Should I blame it on my new job and all the new things that come with that. I suppose I could list several disruptions to my normal routine there as well. Maybe I can blame it on my circumstances, my son's in jail, things aren't going as I had planned in my life or the life of my children... maybe all this has taken my focus off my spiritual walk?

No, it's none of those things. All those things are what happens in life and what I'm describing is how we react to what happens in life. The real problem is as simple as this... I need to STOP EVERYTHING! I need to re-prioritize. Rather than focus on my works, I need to focus on God's word. Rather than focus on what I'm putting out, I need to focus on what I'm putting in! The shift for me lately has been real. I realize that less time alone with God, makes for less time... PERIOD. In my life I just can't get it all done without the Lord guiding and directing me. I make too many wrong turns throughout the day that cost me precious time. I don't see the way clearly like I used to when my focus was on God's word and allowing him to do the seeing and me to do the following. I used to handle things better as life's unexpected opportunities would pop up every day.

The bible for the Christian is our FOOD. Without food we become weak and disoriented making poor judgement decisions as we become weaker and weaker. How can any Christian not see this? We all know it, yet when our lives become faster paced and more hectic... what do we do? We cut back on out time alone with our Lord and Savior. We should be doing the opposite! As I think about it I realize I haven't eaten for days... No wonder I'm so weak. It's time to STOP EVERYTHING, and make my main priority that of eating, being spiritually fed so that I can know what to do, when to do it, and be able to live the life that God wants me to live in today's world.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for losing sight of You. Thank you that you never leave or forsake me, even when I lose focus. I love you Lord and I do want to be revived again and I know that through the reading and meditation of your word you will give me strength and peace and the courage to tackle the days ahead. Thanks you for your love. It's in Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Tommorw morning... I'll begin my day with time alone with my Lord and Savior. I already feel better about tomorrow.

Your brother in Christ.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ups and Downs

The bible calls David a man after God's own heart.

Acts 13:22
But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, "I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do."

1 Samuel 13:14 (Samuel rebukes Saul for his disobedience)
"But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command."

When we take a look at David's life however it's important to see that his life was not free of troubles. David had the same highs and lows that many of us go through every day of our lives. Just as we experience ups and downs in our life, so did David. As with David I'm sure some of our downs come from our own personal sins, but as with David, some of the downs in life come from the sins of others. We can't always control our ups and downs can we? I suppose the lesson here... is that we can trust that God will help us through these trials of ours, just as he helped David through his.

David's anointed King (1 Samuel 16)
David kills Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
David Fled from Saul (1 Samuel 18-31)
Kiklag destroyed (1Samuel 30)
Crowned King over Juda (2 Samuel 2)
Crowned King over all Israel (2 Samuel 5)
God made a special covenant with him, Israel has peace (2 Samuel 7,8)
Committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11)
Solomon Born (2 Samuel 12)
Absalom rebelled (2 Samuel 15-18)
David restored as King (2 Samuel 19)
David sinned in taking a census (2 Samuel 24)
David planned the temple (1 King 2)

Even in the midst of trials, yes even the trials that we go through because of own own sin or weaknesses. God is still with us. It is possible to have a heart that longs to obey God and serve him, yet not always live in obedience. Simply put, we mess up sometimes, and the consequences are painful and often make us feel like hypocrites in our faith (which I suppose we are.) But the good news is that the Lord God knows your heart. He knows we struggle and he knows if you have faith. In the end... he will reward us for our consistent faith. That's good news!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My Best Friend

When I think of a best friend, I think of someone that will always be there no matter what! It doesn't matter how I act or what I say, if we're really great friends then we'll forgive each other when we mess things up. We can overlook each others mistakes and we understand that there is nothing going to come between us and our friendship. I have a friend like this in my life. His name is Clyde. We've known each other now for over 7 years. I hate to say it but Clyde has been a better friend to me than I've ever been to him. He seems to be the one that forgives so easily when I take our friendship for granted. Don't get me wrong he knows that I love and care for him just as he does for me, but with him it's different. It's like, well it's like, he loves me unconditionally no matter what I do. Do you have a friend like this? I mean I have several friends and some that I would call very good friends, but to qualify as a best friend, well that means that to me Clyde treats me in such a way that my day is always better when I'm around him. When we hang out together, I'm happy. Now that's how friends should be.

This week he died suddenly. The night he passed away was a terrible night for my wife and I. We gave him a ride to the hospital when we found out he was so sick. He was having a very difficult time breathing and he was having pains in his chest. When we got to the hospital, the doctor quickly did some tests and then came out to give my wife and I the bad news. He apparently had a Tumor in his lungs that suddenly ruptured and began bleeding. Clyde's lungs we're filling up with blood. The reality was, he wasn't going to make it! I lost my best friend that night.

I just wanted to thank God for the time we had together. Clyde was our pet. He was the best dog anyone could ever want. Great with the kids, and oh what a never ending love he had for us. He greeted me every day without fail when I'd come home from work. He'd see me off to work every single morning when I left the house. If I was outside, Clyde was there with me. There was no other place that Clyde wanted to be than right there with his family. My wife, my children (adults now), all miss Clyde so much. There's such a void in my life that Clyde filled in a way I never realized until he was gone. What a friend I had in Clyde.

The good news... I still have a friend, a best friend. A friend that loves me more than I can imagine. A friend that wants to spend more time with me than I can comprehend. I have a friend that will never leave me or let me down. Talk about unconditional love. My friend has an unconditional love for me. Again, it doesn't matter what I say or how I act, he always forgives me. As with Clyde I must say that he's been a better friend to me than I've ever been to him, but even so, he still loves me. You know who this friend is I'm talking about. It's Jesus! As the song says... "What a Friend I Have in Jesus."

You know what's sad though, and I don't say this to hurt my other friends feelings, because I'm the same way myself with my friends. The sad thing is... The closest model of Jesus Friendship and love comes from my dog. My dog reminds me of Christ love more than any human being I know, including myself. If you have a pet, then you know what I mean. Do you think God gave us these wonderful animals like cats and dogs so that we can actually see unconditional love in action, day after day after day? Forgiveness in action, day after day after day? I don't know? But this I do know, Clyde was a good friend, and I thank God for him.

You are it!

Max Lucado writes... "You are the only you God made. He made you and broke the mold."

Think about this for a moment! No one in the whole world is YOU. You're it. The way you act, the way you think, the things you do and the way you do them... they are uniquely you. You see, we get one shot, just one shot at shining and impacting this world. How do you influence your community? How do you influence your place of employment? How do you impact the Kingdom of God? What about your influence on your family and friends? You're the only one that can do it. No one else has what you offer!

The sad thing is that if you don't shine, the world misses out. There's no one else that can or will do what you can. You are individually made by God with his purpose and plan for life in mind. You offer society a gift that no one else brings. If you don't bring it, it won't be brought. If you aren't you, we don't get you. The world misses out.

Psalm 33:14-15
From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Yelling at the Monkeys

I just got off the phone with my son, Eric. If you've read my blog you know him, he's been in jail for the last couple of years. Several times each week Eric gets the opportunity to call home and visit with us. Today when he called I noticed that the time was around 8pm. He's never called at 8pm. Usually he either calls at 7pm or 9pm. Routines are very regular in jail, so I asked him what happened? He shared with me that a man from a local church came out to visit as they often do, and when this happens it can throw off the break times they get allowing them to take a shower and or make phone calls.

We got to talking about the folks that come in to preach, and as much as Eric appreciates those that come, sometimes it seems they are just yelling the gospel message and it makes him feel like they are being talked down to. His words... "We feel like Monkey's in a cage." He said, "Monkeys don't want to be yelled at, I wish they would stop yelling at the Monkeys."

Eric really enjoys praise music, and he thinks that if I would come out and play for the guys they would really enjoy it. A hammered dulcimer is certainly a unique musical instrument that most folks either haven't seen played or didn't know what they were listening to when they heard it on a recording. I've been very hesitant about going out to the jail to witness, even though I have done it several times in the past at the Pikeville Men's Correctional facility in Pikeville TN. The men at the prison really seemed to enjoy the uniqueness of the dulcimer and the message as well. But now my son's in this place. Maybe, just maybe that's why I need to go. I mean, at least I'm not going to holler and yell at the guys. After all, I can understand, at least a little bit, what those guys are going through in there. Sure they made mistakes and this jail time is the consequence for those mistakes, but just because they're in jail doesn't mean we should love them any less. I know Jesus doesn't, and that's the message isn't it? No matter what we've done, Jesus loves us. As a society, we have rules and laws to live by. We break them, we pay the price. As a society we have a real hard time with forgiveness of those that have paid that price, don't we? I just want to tell the guys..., just because those of us on the outside of these walls have a hard time with forgiveness... Jesus is all about forgiveness. Depending on the severity of your crime, our society may never forgive you. But Jesus will! Praise the Lord! Heaven's the only place I know of where we are all the same. Our past, is our past. It's over, and the sins of this world are no more. Jesus paid the price for you and I to live with him forever. When we realize this, I mean truly realize this... We can handle anything and overcome anything through Christ strength because we know all this is only temporary. This time, is only a moment in time, that is really insignificant compared to the rest of eternity with Christ.

ROMANS 15:15-17,21
15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to 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 think the guys need to hear this message. I think the guys can do with a little compassion and love for a change. Isn't it Jesus' Love that softens the heart of man? It does mine.

I sit here and try to imagine Jesus in the flesh, walking into the jail to speak to these men. Would he begin with yelling and hollering to get their attention? I like to think he'd probably walk up to one of those guys and hug him and tell him... I love you. The man's heart would melt like butter, because love is what he needs and we know there is no greater love, than that of Jesus. Maybe Jesus wants to touch these men through me? May I be so bold as to think this? In the name of Jesus... the answer to that question is YES. We all should be so bold in Christ!

Hebrews 13:3
Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself.

Matt 25:36-40
36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,
you were doing it to me!’

Pray for me as I know God will work this out if it's meant to be. Who knows what God will do in that jail. Paul helped to turn many to Christ in jail through the power of Christ and it's no different today. Isn't it wonderful that the walls that keep people locked inside can't keep the Holy Spirit out?

Prayer; Dear Lord Jesus, please Lord, show me the way. If this be your will then allow the doors to open and I commit to doing whatever it is you want me to do, to help bring your message of love to these men. You open the door, I'll walk through. I'd like to introduce the guys to my Lord. Thank you for your love and forgiveness of sin. I pray these things in the precious name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.