…"But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!" 2Tim. 2:9
Yes there really is a National Day of Prayer. It’s the first Thursday of every May. What do you do on the National Day of Prayer?
To all those who deny that America was founded on Christian and biblical morals, I have printed the exact message from President Abraham Lincoln’s 97th Proclamation.
Read this carefully and note that this came from the Senate to the President’s desk. Also notice how many times, the entire devotion and dependence on Almighty God is referenced.
March 30, 1863
Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State
Our country has changed dramatically since 1863. This was a time when we had a President and other government officials that were leading America by their faith and dependence on Almighty God. We stood out from the rest of the world. We openly and readily proclaimed our devotion and faith. It was nothing that we hid from or denied, and certainly nothing that offended people, as is much the case today.
The Bible was a revered book, whether you believed it or not, people honored it.
Not so today. The Bible is scorned and laughed at as just a story book full of fairy tales that you can’t take seriously, while other religious books are held in the highest regard, and shame on those that would ever bring any type of discredit to them. They may even loose their life if they do.
It’s time that is well over do, that those who claim that the Lord is the One True God, and He is their God, should not stand up, but take to their knees in humbleness and total dependence on Him, to confess the sins of this nation, and fall on the mercy of God, to heal our land and cleanse our nation from it’s evil ways. That God would restore us to wholeness, and once again be that beacon of light, that shines out into a dark world as a source for the kind of freedom, that only God can provide. That truly once again we can be “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.
I started this post with the proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, and I will end it with what God has to say to the nation that follows His ways. May God have mercy on us and heal our land.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.
And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.
Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.
Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.
Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
The LORD will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.
And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you.
And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.
The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them,
and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them”. Deuteronomy 28: 1-14
Are you in anguish over what is going on in America today? Does it go deep into your heart and soul what is taking place in this land of ours? We need people whose hearts have been moved and touched by God, to feel what He feels and see what He sees.
Listen to what David Wilkerson said about anguish, in this short video message. Listen with your heart and not your ears.
All marriages start off very selfishly. When a couple begins dating, it is generally all about each person’s own interests. “I like what you do for me. I like the way you make me feel. When I’m with you I’m happy. You make me feel validated.” At the beginning, marriage really is the ultimate in narcissistic expression. The reason you are getting married is because of what he/she does for you. And it’s the same for the other person. It’s all about me, me, me!
But then you get these two me, me, me people together and something has to give. Marriages where couples are able to make the transition from selfish, me-centered thinking, the ones where the husband and wife realize that they can’t get everything they want, are the ones that make it. The marriages where couples can’t do that…and many people don’t…are the ones that fall apart.
It’s amazing how many spouses are always asking, “How can I make my spouse___________? Fill in the blank with whatever fits.
How can I get my spouse to load the dishwasher the way I want?
How can I get my spouse to do the things I want to do?
How can I get my spouse to keep the house better?
How can I get my spouse to spend less money?
Chores, money, time, attitude…the list goes on infinitely. They may use other words like “get”, “change”, encourage”, “teach”, etc., but the real idea is how do I make my spouse do what I want? These are the people who have not made the shift from the me, me, me and I want, I like, I need mentality to a sacrificial, giving, putting the other first, we way of thinking.
Listen to me. The bottom line is that you can’t make anyone do anything. People will complain that their spouse doesn’t clean the bathroom the way they want, or fold the clothes, or hang the towels, or wash the dishes, the “right” way…which is code for my way!
I’ve got news for you, The Furor, Your Highness—she’s not your slave; and he’s not your slave! Stop being a narcissistic snot! Not everyone gets everything they want. If there is a specific and certain way that you just have to have things done and you don’t like it when your spouse fails to meet your standard, the answer is simple: You do it!
There are areas in our home that I am pickier about, like my office, so I am the one who cleans it. In other areas, it’s my wife who wants things done in a certain way, so she takes care of that. What we don’t do is argue and insult each other all the while insisting that the other person does it my way. I either shut up and let her do it her way, or I do it myself if it’s something that want to have done just-so.
Sometimes you have to give, compromise, do it yourself and hush up. If you constantly fight to win, dig your heels in to have everything exactly the way you want it, when you want it and how you want it, you will lose, but not in a good way.
Sometimes you just have the mentality that “I get to lose.” Deliberately choose to lose. Lose your selfishness, your ego, and your right to be right all the time. Ironically, losers win and winners lose in this one.
by Mark Gungor
Believers often find themselves living in contradiction to the world, and we should. The runaway anxiety and constant fear that grips so much of the world does not have the same hold on us—or at least, it shouldn’t. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at anxiety from a biblical perspective, and examining God’s care and provision for His people, and how that should free us from worry.
Today we’re bringing our Attacking Anxiety series to a close with part three of our discussion on Paul’s prayer that we would know and rest in God’s lasting peace and grace. The apostle wrote, “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18).
A final characteristic of God’s peace is that it is not subject to circumstances. Paul’s prayer was that we might continually enjoy it “in every circumstance” (v. 16). This peace is not subject to anything that happens in the worldly realm. It is not built on any human relationship, and it’s not dependent on human feelings, decisions, or situations.
Rather, God’s peace is built on a divine plan and promise from an unfailing God who will secure you in Himself, and who will do everything for your good. This peace is a product of an unchanging divine relationship, and it is unbreakable, unassailable, and transcendent.
As we noted earlier, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). He was saying, “There’s nothing to fear or be anxious about because I’m giving you a divine, lasting peace that cannot be fractured or damaged by the world.” We demonstrate that Jesus keeps His promises when, in the midst of worldly upheavals that would normally tear us up and trouble our lives, we remain calm.
Paul’s great desire was that we enjoy that kind of well-being, which is why he prayed toward that end. His parting wish was this: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:18). He wanted every man and woman who would ever put his or her faith in Christ to experience the abiding presence of God’s grace.
Grace is God’s goodness or benevolence given to those who don’t deserve it. “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). It was in the person of God’s Son that “the grace of God has appeared,” making salvation available to all (Titus 2:11). Once we embrace this saving grace through faith in Christ, we are blessed with God’s grace, enabling us to withstand any difficulty that would tend to make us anxious. Paul described this grace while confessing to a difficulty that brought him great anxiety:
There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. . . . Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians12:7-10)
As believers, we also are blessed with the grace that equips us for divine service. Paul expressed his appreciation for this grace in saying, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy . . . the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Timothy 1:12-14).
Grace is what enables us to grow spiritually in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). In the material realm, Paul appealed to God’s grace in encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous in giving to the Lord’s work: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
God’s grace saves us, helps us cope with our anxieties, equips us for service, and enables us to grow spiritually and to be rich in God. Like God’s peace, it is always available, and there is no limit to it. And again, like God’s peace, the conditions for receiving it are trusting God, forsaking sin, enduring the refining process, doing good, and living by the Word. As we are what we ought to be, God infuses us with His peace and grace. And that has a wonderful way of crowding out anxiety.
I want to close this series on a personal note. Just a few days after preaching a sermon on the peace and grace God bestows on His people, I had an unprecedented opportunity to apply it to my own life: I was notified that my wife and youngest daughter were in a serious auto accident, and that my wife, Patricia, would probably die. Everything seemed like a blur to me, the details frustratingly sketchy—I was afraid she was already dead. During my hour-long drive to the hospital, I had a lot of time to reflect on the severity of the situation. Yet I experienced a deep and steeled peace simply because I knew God had not failed me—His grace was in complete control.
I am happy to report that God spared both their lives, and that Patricia recovered beautifully. If you too rely on God’s grace, He will see you through the most difficult trials.
It’s only through God’s grace that believers can face every circumstance with calm, assured peace. Anxiety does not have to reign in our hearts—we can hold fast to God’s peace and provision through any of life’s storms.
We’ve been looking at the nature of the peace God grants to believers, as explained in Paul’s prayer from the church at Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18.
Not only is that peace divine in origin, but it is also a gift. When Paul prayed, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace,” the word translated “grant” is the verb meaning “to give.” It speaks of a gift. God’s peace is a sovereign, gracious gift bestowed on those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 85:8, a verse you may have never noticed before, the psalmist stated, “I will hear what God the Lord will say; for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones.” God grants peace to those who belong to Him. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). There’s no greater gift for the anxious than God’s peace.
Some, however, will seek relief for their anxieties through a false peace. God is generous to whom He grants His peace, but there is a limit. Isaiah wrote, “‘Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will heal him.’ But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:19-21). He will grant peace to those who come to Him from near and far—those who grew up hearing much about Him and those who heard little to nothing—but those who don’t come to Him, the wicked, enjoy no real peace.
Thomas Watson explains further:
Peace flows from sanctification, but they being unregenerate, have nothing to do with peace. . . . They may have a truce, but no peace. God may forbear the wicked a while, and stop the roaring of His cannon; but though there be a truce, yet there is no peace. The wicked may have something which looks like peace, but it is not. They may be fearless and stupid; but there is a great difference between stupefied conscience, and a pacified conscience. . . . This is the devil’s peace; he rocks men in the cradle of security; he cries, Peace, peace, when men are on the precipice of hell. The seeming peace a sinner has, is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger (A Body of Divinity [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986 reprint], p.262).
The peace of the wicked is born out of delusion. True peace is the child of saving grace. In a prayer similar to the one that closes 2 Thessalonians, Paul said, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). Peace is a gift to those who believe.
And God’s peace is the gift that keeps on giving. A less commercial way to express that truth is how Paul said it: “May the Lord of peace . . . continually grant you peace” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). By adding “continually,” Paul was emphasizing that it is constantly available. The implication is, however, that it can be interrupted.
It isn’t God who interrupts our spiritual peace, but us. We can suspend the flow of peace in our lives by succumbing to our flesh, which is still part of this world. Unless we “walk by the Spirit,” our means of controlling the flesh (Galatians 5:16), we are open season to all kinds of anxieties: the dread of the unknown, the fear of death, the loss of a loved one—and we all can list a string of others.
How does this unfortunate process begin? When we stop focusing on our permanent condition in Christ, who will certainly bring us to glory. And when we start basing our happiness on the fleeting things of the world. Those things by definition will change. Thus, if we get upset when they do, we will spend our lives in distress.
People who can ride through the toughest issues of life and remain calm are not indifferent; they’re just trusting God. What if our ride is a little bumpy? What if we’re feeling troubled, anxious, and fearful? How can we restore the peace? How can it remain uninterrupted?
The psalmist said to himself, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 42:11). He reminded himself that God was there to help him. We can trust Him because He is trustworthy. He genuinely cares for us.
Long ago, God made it perfectly clear to Israel that peace comes from obeying His Word (Leviticus 26:1-6). The same truth applies today. Peace is restored through obedience. The first step is to turn from sin. Sometimes the sin is the doubt, fear, and anxiety itself, but also it can be an underlying sin that has produced those feelings. Probe your heart and isolate the cause of unrest. Forsake the sin that has been revealed to you and obey God by applying the opposite virtue. In the case of anxiety, that means having faith in God to help you manage life’s details.
Something else that will restore your peace is to accept whatever stresses or challenges God has seen fit to bring into your life. In the book of Job we read:
Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal. . . . In famine He will redeem you from death, And in war from the power of the sword. You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and you will not be afraid of violence when it comes. You will laugh at violence and famine, and you will not be afraid of wild beasts. For you will be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field will be at peace with you. You will know that your tent is secure, for you will visit your abode and fear no loss (Job 5:17-18, 20-24).
If you understand that God is using all the difficulties you face to perfect you, you’ll be at peace. It is not all for nothing. You may not always know why you’re going through this or that, but be encouraged that there is a good reason. Turning to the New Testament, Paul said if you want peace, do good (Romans 2:10). All who do good will enjoy peace. To be more specific, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. . . . And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18). Living according to the Word—according to heavenly wisdom, to God’s revealed standard of righteousness—brings peace.
If you’ve lost God’s peace in your life, you can find it again. Retrace your steps by trusting God in everything, turning from sin and walking in obedience, enduring His refining work in your life, doing what is good, and living by His Word in a righteous way. As Paul said, God’s peace is continually available to you. Avail yourself of it.
Any anxious Christian would love to have this prayer offered on his behalf: “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. . . . The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Those powerful, encouraging words come from the apostle Paul at the end of his second letter to the Thessalonian church (2 Thessalonians 3:16, 18). They serve as a potent reminder of where we can and should turn when anxiety threatens—to “the Lord of peace Himself.”
Peace is commonly defined as the sense of calm, tranquility, quietness, bliss, contentment, and well-being that we feel when everything is going the way we’d like it to go. That definition, however, is incomplete because those feelings can also be produced by a pill—or by alcohol, biofeedback, a nap, a generous inheritance, or even deliberate deception. The reassurance of a friend or someone you love can also produce that kind of temporary peace.
That’s not the kind of peace Paul had in mind. Godly peace has nothing to do with human beings or human circumstances. In fact, it cannot be produced on a human level at all. Any manufactured or manipulated peace is very fragile. It can be destroyed instantly by failure, doubt, fear, difficulty, guilt, shame, distress, regret, sorrow, the anxiety of making a wrong choice, the anticipation of being mistreated or victimized by someone, the uncertainty of the future, and any challenge to our position or possessions. And we experience those things daily.
The peace that God gives is not subject to fluctuations and uncertainties of life. It is spiritual peace; it’s an attitude of the heart and mind when we believe and therefore know deep down that all is well between ourselves and God. Along with it is the assurance that He is lovingly in control of everything. We as Christians should know for certain that our sins are forgiven, that God is concerned with our well-being, and that heaven is our destiny. God’s peace is our possession and privilege by divine right.
Paul defines this peace for us in several ways in 2 Thessalonians 3:16. To begin with, it is divine: “May the Lord of peace Himself . . . grant you peace” (emphasis added). The Lord of peace is the One who gives it. The pronoun Himself is emphatic in the Greek text and underscores God’s personal involvement. Christian peace, the peace unique to believers, comes personally from Him. It is the very essence of His nature.
To put it simply, peace is an attribute of God. If I asked you to list the attributes of God, these are ones that would probably come most readily to mind: His love, grace, mercy, justice, holiness, wisdom, truth, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, and immortality. But do you ever think of God as being characterized by peace?
In fact, He is peace. Whatever it is that He gives us, He has and He is. There is no lack of perfect peace in His being. God is never stressed. He is never anxious. He never worries. He never doubts. He never fears. God is never at cross purposes with Himself. He never has problems making up His mind.
God lives in perfect calm and contentment. Why? Because He’s in charge of everything and can operate everything perfectly according to His own will. Since He is omniscient, He is never surprised. There are not threats to His omnipotence. There is no possible sin that can stain His holiness. Even His wrath is clear, controlled, and confident. There is no regret in His mind for He has never done, said, or thought anything that He would change in any way.
God enjoys perfect harmony within Himself. Our Bibles call Him “the Lord of peace,” but in the Greek text a definite article appears before the word translated “peace,” meaning He literally is “the Lord of the peace.” This is real peace—the divine kind, not the kind the world has. Paul’s prayer is that we might experience that kind of peace. Its source is God and God alone.
Coming soon, Part2
If you walk around and take a survey of how many people claim to be Christians in our society today, you will get the majority of people claiming that they are Christians. 76% of American adults claim to be Christians today. That is down from 87% who made that claim back in 1990. The decline of people who are involved in organized religions is increasing every year, not just Christianity, but in any kind of organized religion. Times are changing in the world, both economically and in our views about God. When you hit people in the pocket-book, that definitely will get their attention.
After all, the only reason we ever stay in anything is to attain a certain level of change, when or if, that change never happens, we are looking for the first exit we can find. Patience and long-suffering are not character traits that you see very often anymore today.
Many people get involved with God or a church for a specific reason. They are going through a tough time in their lives, a loved one has died, or they are just experiencing some type of loss that they want an answer for and relief from.
All of us view God, and who we think He is, from the influences we had as a kid. Our parents, economic situation, and total environment, all shaped what we think of God today.
I have talked with many atheists and people from other religious back grounds, and the one common thread that flows through them all is their desire for the truth. Nobody wants to be mislead or bamboozled…we want the truth. If that is you, then what I’m about to say is for you.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
This promise was given to those who believed in Jesus. Jesus said to these believers and followers, that if they abide, or continue with him, that would mean that they are truly His disciples. If they are truly the disciples of Christ and they continue on with Him, they will discover what truth is all about, and this discovery will set them free. You want to know truth, then you might want to check out who Jesus Christ is?
Further down Jesus said in John 8:32, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Freedom at last! But are you really free? Many of us find freedom from addictions, a nagging spouse, a job that is dragging us down, but real freedom comes when you know the truth.
For the Christian, Romans chapters, six, seven, and eight, are the hinges of the door that opens to what the gospel and salvation really mean.
Chapter six, we are free from the penalty of sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
Romans chapter eight, we are free from the presence of sin. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
But in Romans chapter seven we find a battle going on inside of every single one of us. Paul expressed this battle that wages in us, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:22-24
Ever experience something like that in your Christian life? “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ” Romans 7:15-20
Sound familiar? If you are a child of God, by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then you definitely can relate to what Paul is talking about here. This is the battle of truth that goes on daily in our lives. It’s a constant power struggle over who we are going to believe and follow. Do we follow the sin that has so easily dominated most of our lives, or are we going to yield to the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God, that lives inside us, and follow the new person He is creating in us?
What if you had a terrible boss, that no one liked. He was rude and critical and always was yelling at you and ordering you around like you were some incompetent child? He was your boss and you had to do what he said.
One day he gets fired. The office is totally relieved to know that never again will you have to take his orders or do anything that he ever has to say. He’s finished controlling you.
Say you and your spouse are out for a nice dinner. You are really enjoying this nice quiet evening, when in walks your old boss. Just seeing him again makes the hairs on your back stand up. You cower in hopes that he doesn’t see you, but here he comes and he’s walking right over to you.
He walks over to you and he tells you to go over and get him a cup of coffee, and automatically you get up and run to the coffee machine…but wait a minute…he’s not your boss anymore and you don’t have to do anything that he says, remember? He has no more authority or control over you. You can tell him…No! I’m not doing what you tell me to do!
That’s the way it is with sin in our lives. We are the battle ground and Satan and the Holy Spirit are vying for our allegiance. We play a part in all this. Who are you going to go after?
We have been set free, but there is an old master that is not going away. He wants to constantly influence you and me to continue to live life the way we always have, by obeying our sinful cravings and desires.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24
That will be coming in the next article.
Where do you go when things aren’t going your way? Is there a well worn path to your favorite watering hole, or maybe a friend that will allow you to use their shoulder to cry on? Whatever you do or wherever you go, does it bring long lasting comfort and strength to see you through life’s storms?
I’m speaking to those who our children of God, those who claim that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior, and you’ve chosen to walk with Him through this life. If this is you then you need to listen to what I’m about to tell you.
Weather you’ve been in a storm or maybe you’re going through one right now, or maybe every thing is hunky dory for you and life is good, get ready my friend, because the storms will come. Jesus promised that when He said;
This world, and anything in it should never be a haven of rest for us, no matter if things are good or not going so good. Learn to run to your heavenly Father, and not to the things you used run to when you lived in the world.
“Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossions 3:3
Remember we are not a citizen of this world anymore, we belong to Christ and our citizenship is in heaven. We have a new address and we are just passing through this one.
“But our citizenship is in heaven – and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20
Living the Christian life, walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and living a life that is obedient and brings glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ, is not an easy road.
Jesus gave us this warning, but He also gave us His promise to always be with us and will always give us what we need for this journey or the task at hand, and will never leave us nor forsake us. You and I are never alone.
Have you learned this in your walk with the Lord? Is it something that, through trial and error, you have experienced in your Christian life?
In Jesus earthly life, He learned this, just as we do. He was our example and He paved the way for you and I to walk in “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8
Listen to what Paul said, “Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:29
These words, labor and struggling, don’t sound like very pleasant and easy words. The work that God had called for Paul to do was anything but easy and comfortable.
But don’t forget the rest of that verse…”according to his power that powerfully works in me.” Paul was just the channel for God’s work to be accomplished, just like you and me are today. We are God’s hands and feet in this world. We carry the fragrance of Jesus Christ wherever we go, to a lost and dying world.
“Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Matthew 11:29-30
Sometimes storms come because we have drifted away from God and He is lovingly and gently trying to bring us back, or it is God preparing us for something that is coming our way. Whatever it is, it’s always for our good and to bring God glory. That’s why we’re here, to bring God glory.
When I was a kid in school, my friend and I got into trouble and we were called down to the principle’s office. That only meant one thing. Back in those days you were allowed to get paddled by teachers and principles, and that’s exactly what happened to us, but I will always remember what my friend said to me when he came out of the office after getting his shot first. He told me, “when he starts, lean into him and it won’t hurt so much.”
My friend, when the storms come into your life, and they will, learn to lean into God, and it won’t hurt as much.
“Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?
“My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline
or give up when he corrects you.
Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.” Hebrews 12:3-13
Are you the type of person who is organized and has everything under control? No surprises going catch you off guard…right? You are in good shape and you are just cruising along and life is good. How does that usually work out for you?
I’m that type of person too, but the more I work at getting everything together and lining all my ducks in a row, something unexpected, that I failed to figure in, always comes along. Have you ever experienced anything like that?
I don’t want to talk about things going wrong, I want to talk about being in control and in charge.
As a child of God, Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior, and He is the one who has mastery over my life, my thoughts, and my actions…or does He?
Because I like to be in control and have my life all in order, and I don’t like it when those situations come along and throw everything out of sequence. That makes me upset, angry, and insecure. When that happens, instead of leaning on God and running to Him, I try to do it all on my own.
After all, God made me like this and he gave me this type of character, that’s what He wants me to do…right?
Anything that I put on the alter of my heart, anything that I place there instead of God, is an idol. An idol is worshiping anything other than God.
“So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5
“We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.” Timothy Keller – from his book – “Counterfeit Gods”
Click on the picture of the book and get your copy from Amazon. This is an incredible read and you will be totally surprised at what idols are and how many you worship. You are limited to only one purchase per visit as the printers are having a hard time keeping up with the demand.
Because of my personality, if I had all the money I needed and everything was all nice and neat and in order, I would think, “what an awesome person I am to be so organized, I certainly do such a great job”, and I wouldn’t need to rely on God as much, would I? I might even start worshiping either myself or my great organizational skills. I hope you get my point.
In 1Samuel, Eli the high priest, was judged by God because of the sins of his sons, which he did nothing about. Listen to what God said to him;
“You have honored your sons more than you have me by having made yourselves fat from the best parts of all the offerings of my people Israel”.’ 1Samuel 2:29
His was the job of tending to the offerings and sacrifices, but he honored his sons more then he did God. His sons became his idol.
Remember Jacob tricked Esau into selling him his birthright, but it didn’t mean anything to Esau, he put no value or importance on it, he had other things that he placed on the throne of his heart.
But Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” “Look,” said Esau, “I’m about to die! What use is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear an oath to me now.” So Esau swore an oath to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Genesis 25:31
If your idol is power and success, humiliation is your greatest nightmare, you use people, and you probably have a problem with anger.
If your idol is the need to have the approval of everyone, your greatest nightmare is rejection, you smother people, and you have an emotional problem with cowardice.
If your idol is control and self-discipline, your greatest nightmare is uncertainty, you make people around you feel condemned, and you have an emotional problem with worry.
These are just a few, there are others, but the point is; idols can hide themselves in a myriad of ways in our lives and they are not always bad in and of themselves, it’s always the way we deal with them and use them.
God has wired and made us to worship, but that worship should be for Him and Him alone. If we put anything else on His throne, we are worshiping an idol.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen”. Romans 1:18-25
Trust is a very fragile flower. It can take years to build and yet in just one short moment of indiscretion can all come tumbling down, and there is nothing you can say or do to change it. Have any of you been there? I think all of us have at one point or another.
The main ingredient in any solid relationship is trust. Without trust there really is no relationship. You see, trust sets a relationship apart from all the others.
A young man who is going to college or out making his path in the world, sees and dates other young women. He’s just looking around not really for anything in particular, he’s just having fun making his way in the world, getting his direction as to where he wants to go…but then it happens.
Of all the people he’s enjoying and having a good time with there is this one that stands out from the crowd. He’s attracted to her and she is to him, and most important of all, they enjoy each others company.
They spend hours on end just talking and learning about each other. Every single detail comes out. They laugh, they cry, and they get to know just what makes the other tick.
This is a place that we don’t usually let other people in, but when someone opens the door to their heart and say’s, “I care about you, I love you, and I trust you to come in and make yourself at home,” that is and should be treated as a very special moment, because something is born at that moment inside the hearts of both of these people. It’s called trust.
If handled the right way, this trust will build into a strong unit and a force that nothing can knock over or penetrate through. There are four pillars that have to be present and born in the right order for all this to take place.
You have to bridge these four pillars together to make a solid unit that you will be able to build on for years to come. These are going to be the foundation pillars of what your relationship, and the relationship of your children and grand-children for generations to come, will be built on. When you think of it that way, you can see how so very important all this is.
Our society today doesn’t hold to these truths anymore, and the selfish, I want what’s best for me, attitude is what is control instead of this process.
The results are very evident… divorce, broken homes, teen suicide, and lots of lonely people who think that sleeping with every women in town, is being open and free, and in reality their heart is cold and empty, and they don’t know the first thing about truth or trust.
There is always the initial attraction that we go through. We may be attracted to a lot of different people, but through the talking period and sharing of truth, you will know if this is the one or not.
Once you have established that this person is willing to open themselves truthfully and honestly to you, this will open up the next bridge to trust that you must cross. Without truth there can never be any trust.
This is where many relationships fail. Truth is not as free flowing in our society today as it once was. People don’t think twice about lying or stretching the truth, but the bottom line is truth and integrity are the only ways to build a solid relationship that will last a lifetime. There is no other way… period.
Jesus said to His disciples in John 8:32, ” you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” When you know the truth about anything it does set you free. There is no more doubting or wondering which way to go…when you know the truth. When you know the truth and the solid rock of trust is built you can whether the strongest of storms.
Follow these pillars and you will find that right person that will fit you like a glove, and then continue to build on the truth and trust that you have established, and your marriage will be one that will last a lifetime and one that will be emulated in your family for generations to come.
The death of a loved one is never an easy experience. Weather a person comes to deaths door through a long illness or a tragic accident, losing someone who has been a part of your life, leaves a huge whole. Friends and family that come to circle around, you at that very painful time, can help and hold you up, but they can never take away the pain and devastation that you go through.
On top of the tremendous loss, there is all the paper work that must be handled and taken care of. Yes, I said paper work. I don’t mean this in any way to be disrespectful of the dead, but these are things that have to be done after we’re gone, and it’s a pile of papers that need to be signed and delivered to all the right places. This is something that all of us must go through, but none of us ever think about until it is all to late.
My mother-in-law passed away after a fourteen month battle with pancreatic cancer. Cancer is a horrible illness that usually leaves families reeling, but pancreatic cancer is usually discovered after it is too late and death is quick. Usually two to six months, but my mother-in-law lasted fourteen.
Then there are the constant drives back and forth to the hospital for the chemo treatments and any other things that may come up. It is a long and draining experience that leaves you numb and listless.
With all this going on and now the tragic news of the persons demise, there are the insurance forms and agents that need to be contacted. If there is an estate, there are attorneys, social security, clergy, funeral homes, and family members, just to name a few of the many things that have to be taking care of. This in and of itself, can be a daunting task for anyone to handle, but even more so after the devastating news that your loved one has died.
With all the emotions, fears, and drama that this brings, wouldn’t it be nice if you had everything prepared and ready to go, when this door, that we all must pass through, opens?
I would like to introduce to you an eBook that I have been given access too with all these answers laid out for you. A guide to organize and put together the people, phone numbers, and addresses, that you must contact. Have all the right papers ready to go and everything that you must do, all laid out for you. “This is My Story” is a great resource for everything you must do during this very difficult time.
Don’t leave your loved ones running around trying to find your insurance papers, or the name to your pension administrator, or your doctor, attorney, and close friends, during this very emotional period. They will have enough to deal with your loss, let alone all of the administrative process as well.
I remember everything that my wife had to carry, and all the arrangements that she had to do, and when the evening came she would just collapse in my arms, weeping desperately for her mother. If I could have known where some of these documents were and who to contact, I could have helped her so much more.
In, “This is My Story“, you will find resources and guides on how to leave a legacy for your children and grand-children. Record your family history on videos, and guidelines for a personal legacy letter, setting up wills, trusts, guardianship, and marital agreements.
What is power of attorney? Find out in this incredible resource. How to set up your personal, real estate, medical, insurance, and much more is included in this tremendous resource that all of us are going to need one day.
Bank accounts, financial investments, debts, and business interests are all covered in this eBook.
I know that my wife’s burden would have been so much easier to carry if she had all this information organized and set up before hand for her, but this is a bridge that we never feel we will have to cross…but we all will one day.
If someone charged me $100 for this, I would pay it in a heart beat, but they aren’t. $50 dollars would be a steal for all the valuable information in this book, but they aren’t selling it for $50 either. For the price of what it would cost you for a meal at McDonald’s, $9.95, is what you will pay for all this information. I still can’t believe that’s all they are charging for everything that you get in this book.
Click on the book and view a sample of this amazing information that we all need to know. Let’s see McDonald’s or peace of mind? I think I’ll take peace of mind.
We read so much today about physical healing and miracles that deal with the physical nature, and those are all well and good, but we will all eventually succumb to old age and the body will give out and the door of death is something that we will all have to walk through one day. To me, the greatest miracle of all is the miracle that lasts throughout eternity, the miracle of a changed Heart.
About four years ago my mother-in-law’s life was taken over by pancreatic cancer. It is a horrible cancer, as all cancers are. To just watch as a person’s life ebbs away and all you can do is try to make them as comfortable as possible.It’s a very emotional and trying time for everyone. I say this not for pity or sadness on my part, but for my wife Lori.
Lori and I met about eighteen years ago when life was throwing me a curve. Lori gave me hope and the spark that was so buried deep inside me. Oh, I tried to fight it and stay in my self-pity, but she did not give up. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. We got married and I will save the rest of that story for another blog, but what I really want to concentrate on is her current situation.
After Lori’s mom passed, her best friend was diagnosed with cancer also. She also passed from this world and went on to the next. To take two hits like that is hard enough for anyone, but there was more to come.
Lori also suffers from degenerative back decease. She walks around most of the time in pain, physical pain. There is also an emotional pain that she walks around with too. That pain is called her Father.
He made cancer seem like a walk in the park. No man that I have ever met can compare with the selfish, angry, hateful heart that this man possessed. This heart did not come from the emotional pain that he endured from the death of his wife. Her passing from this life to the next was an entrance, from the fifty five years of hell that this man, put her through, to a place of peace and rest, where there is no more crying…. She is finally free from all of that.
This all goes back to when he lost his sister, who was just seven years old at the time, to cancer also. Those pressures and emotional scares were deep and Bob carried them throughout his lifetime. It was the only way he knew how to live with his very hurting and troubled heart.
Now the incarceration of my wife begins. Bob was trying to do the same things to my wife, his daughter, that he did to his wife. The verbal abuse, the constant harassment of phone calls, and demands for her time were never ending.
The story went on, and Lori and I both continued to pray for Bob. We prayed that God would keep us strong. To help us see what is really going on inside him. What is making him act the way he does. He is hurting. He is so very angry. And God, what is our part in all this? Sometimes I wanted to wring his neck, and other times I felt sorry for him.
He was the one who was really in prison. He was the one that kept himself locked in, so afraid to come out, so afraid to face himself. But that is the only way he would ever be free. That is the only way any of us will ever be free. When we look in the mirror and see who we really are.
John 8:32;” And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Well that prison door was about to be opened. It all started when Bob joined our men’s bible study.
I want to talk now about the miracle God performed in Bob, my father-in-law’s life.
He joined the men’s bible study that I facilitated. He really loved getting out of the house and being one of the guys, ever since his wife died. We would talk about our sports teams and we always had something to say about our beloved, Detroit Lions. We would do our best to tell of how we would right the ship, if only we were the Head Coach of the Lions. Once we got all that out of our system, we really did open our bibles and get into a study of God’s word. We would drink our coffee, and eat our little munchies and share life with each other. It was a good time.
Bob would come over to my house and we would ride together to the church where the bible study was held. Sometimes he would get there two hours early. Since I only lived three minutes from the church, it left a lot of time for us to talk.
Sometimes we would go out to dinner or just sit in the kitchen and talk before it was time to go to the study. Bob was lonely, and all he wanted was someone to talk too. I know that I would complain sometimes, because he would come over so early, and I had things to do, but you know, I kind of didn’t mind. We would have some good talks, and looking back, God was letting me see inside into Bob’s heart, and I was seeing something start to happen. Bob was reading his bible every day. Even his next door neighbor said she saw him sitting on their back deck reading his bible.
God was doing something in Bob’s heart. He was changing this man from the inside. He didn’t seem so uptight about things like he used too. He was actually starting to be nice to people. People were starting to notice this as well as us.
The real proof came on Christmas. We had all of the family over our house for our yearly Christmas celebration. Food was out, and everyone was mingling and talking and just sharing the joy of the season. Normally Bob would sit at the table and not talk to anyone, unless he was spoken too. But this year was different. He was reaching out to the kids and talking to them, and saying hello to everyone. He even sat with his daughter-in-law and talked to her for about an hour. He gave her a hug and a kiss when she left to go home. Now this was something that everyone stood up and took notice of, because everyone knew that Bob did not like Debbie. In the past he would never have spoken with her, let alone give her a hug and a kiss good bye. Everyone saw this and took notice that this was not the Bob they all new.
When everyone left, Bob stayed. He stayed for about three hours. I could tell that he just wanted to talk to someone. So we sat down at the kitchen table… and we talked.
He told us about a time when his mother had come to live with them. This was way back when my wife was still living at home. He proceeded to tell us how his wife treated his mother,” like she was an angel,” he said. “She treated her like a queen”, he continued. But the most shocking thing came next. With watery eyes, and a difficult time getting the words out, he admittedly said,” but I treated her like a jerk. I was an idiot.”
It was a very emotional moment, but this man, maybe for the first time in his life, was admitting that he was wrong. He admitted that he was not the man that he portrayed himself to be, and he had definitely not lived the kind of life that God required of him. He told me; “I just want to get to heaven and be with my Vergie.” That was his nick name for his wife. She had died of pancreatic cancer about twenty months before all this. They had been together for fifty five years.
Through the prayers, love and friendship of so many people, and most of all, the intervening of God’s word in Bob’s life, this man was changing right before our eyes. You have heard of the miracles of people being cured of physical ailments. I think the greatest miracle of all is when God gives a person a new heart. One that can see and feel the world from the way God sees everything.
On January 12, 2009, Robert McMaster died of a massive heart attack. They said that he was dead before he hit the ground.
I believe with my whole heart, and not a doubt in my mind, that Bob has finally reached the place that he always wanted to be. He is in heaven, and he is with his Vergie.
If there was ever a person whom I thought was totally unreachable with the gospel of Jesus Christ, Bob would have been that person. I would have said that there was no way God could change Bob McMasters heart. I was so wrong.
God taught me that nothing is impossible with Him at the controls. Not only is Bob a great example of this, but my life as well.
The night that we went over to Bob’s house, after we got the call of his death, we found Bob’s bible opened to this verse.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14: 2-3
Right now Bob and Vergie are in the place that God had been preparing for them. How about you? Have you examined your heart lately? Better yet, why not let God take a look at it. After all… He’s the one who wired it up. No one knows better how to fix it than He does. Just ask Him. He will do it.
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55: 8-11
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Saturday, April 16, 2011, will be a day that the 25,000 people, who braved the rain and cold temperatures, pray will live on for years to come.
The first of its kind, prayer walk, was held at Comerica Park in Detroit Michigan. Thousands of Christians came together to pray for their city, it’s leaders, and also to pledge a million hours of service to their communities.
This all started about two years ago and grew into the E.A.C.H. program. E.A.C.H. stands for; Everyone A Chance to Hear. To hear what you might ask? To hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
500 churches, from all denominations, came together in this massive event. There were singers and lots of umbrellas, but most of all, there was the hope and the hearts of thousands of people calling for God to move His mighty hand on this ravaged city of Detroit.
The news media came from all over the country. CNN, MSNBC, and national reporters came from every where to cover this event.
There has not been any kind of event like this since the days of Billy Graham and his crusades that covered all the major cities of America with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The EACH program will be a bit different. Instead of using one man, the entire body of Jesus Christ, His church, is being called on to go out and share the gospel of Christ in word and more importantly, in deed. One million hours of service to communities all over southeastern Michigan. Showing the love of God in the things we do and say to people. Going out of our ways to help out those who are in need with the things that we have.
Easter will kick off a one year program of service by the church and followers of Jesus Christ.
There are billboards, all over the city highways, that have just have one word on them, and after Easter, they will be replaced with two words. The two word story is coming April 24, 2011.
Everyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ has a story. It’s His story and how it has changed people from the inside out. My two word story is; Loved? – Loved. Go to the 2 word story link on April 24, 2011, and read more.
There were extra police officers that were working that day because of the crowd, but all they were doing was shaken hands and having pictures taken with the prayer walkers, and walkers thanking them for all their hard work that they do in laying their lives down for the people of the city of Detroit. They were dumb founded and didn’t know what to say with all the accolades that were being heaped upon them.
As I watched all this and taking all of it in, I thought…what would it be like if our whole city was like this? What would it be like if our whole state of Michigan were filled with people like this? What would it be like if our whole nation was filled with people of this nature?
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, help get His story out in your town and in your city or state. That’s why we are here!
“Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Rom_8:35-37.
When considering the triumphant Christian life, we may wrongly think that victory depends upon getting out of impossible situations. Actually, we are already “more than conquerors” even while we are in the midst of the impossibilities.
For us to be ultimately defeated, we would have to be separated from Christ’s love for us. We would have to be cut off from the loving care of our victorious Lord. Can any foe or any situation accomplish that? “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ” This question is answered in Rom_8:38-39. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
No spiritual foe can enforce such a separation. Neither can any circumstance of impossibility separate us from our loving God. Rom_8:35-36 list some of the impossibilities that make us feel as though we are being defeated. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’ .”
When troubles and pressures arise, when we are attacked or are lacking resources, we may be tempted to think that victory is no longer available. When our experience is like a lamb being led to the slaughter, we may think that victory could never be ours. Nevertheless, the truth is that “in all these things we are more than conquerors.”
Yes, right in the middle of the impossibilities of life, we are already more than a spiritual victor. Actually, we have already been made participants in a mighty, eternal, abundant victory, the victory that Christ accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
Our victorious position in any situation is not circumstantial. It is relational. We are united by faith to the victorious one, the Lord Jesus Christ!
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Co_15:57).
Whenever we are traveling in an area were we’ve never been before, we usually have a map that we follow. I remember back in the day, taking that long road journey called the family vacation, and my wife following the map that we had and telling me the next road I would have to turn on. We had planned ever road and stop with a marker, so there was no way we were ever going to get lost.
Now I have a terrible sense of direction. All you have to do is turn me around in a circle and I would get lost, and I am no different than any other man when it comes to asking for directions. I don’t know why, but it’s a part a the male species to never want to admit that we are lost and we need directions. I guess it just hits at our pride; you know, the man, the head of the family, the one who protects and provides…..is lost! Just a hard thing for us guys to swallow. Thank God for GPS.
We joke about this, but when it comes to following your life map, the life map that God has laid out for you, we all have a hard time admitting that we might need some direction, and sometimes we just get lost and need some very definite help. When it comes to this, all of us, male and female fall very short on admitting these things.
When the bible talks about the offense of the gospel, why would the gospel be offensive to anyone? The gospel is the good news of God. The way is now open for anyone who wants to, can now come to God and receive forgiveness for all their sins, everything that they have done to offend God. That’s what our sins are, an offensive front against God. He will wipe the slate clean, and give you a brand new life map, that He has laid out specifically just for you. He has promised to be your guide and help you to through your life map.
Why would this be offensive to us? Because I don’t like asking for directions. It makes me feel like I’m not in control. It makes me feel inferior, less of a person, like I don’t know what I’m doing. It means that I have to swallow my pride and admit that I’m lost and I don’t know the right way to go. That’s never been an easy thing for me to do, and maybe that’s never been an easy thing for you to do also, but that’s what is needed to do.
Just like my wife is telling me, as we drive endless hours looking for that road we can’t find, “why don’t you stop and ask for directions?” God is saying the same thing to you and me; “When are you going to admit that you’ve lost your way, and come to Me for directions. I’ve got the life map that I made just for you and you won’t be alone, because I’ll walk you through it.” That’s a promise from God to you and me. Listen to what He says;
“Now, this is what the LORD says,
the one who created you,
and formed you:
“Don’t be afraid, for I will protect you.
I call you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I am with you;
when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not harm you.” Isaiah 43: 1-2
I want to close with something King David said to his son Solomon before he passed the throne of kingship to him;
“When David’s time to die approached, he charged his son Solomon, saying. “I’m about to go the way of all the earth, but you – be strong; show what you’re made of! Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths He shows you: Follow the life map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, His course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go.” 1 Kings 2: 1-3 from “The Message”
It’s never to late to ask for directions, and it’s OK to do so, because all of us get lost. God has a life map for you, and He will walk with you through it and even show you where all the signposts are. All you have to do is stop whatever you’re doing and ask Him for directions. He just waiting to hear from you.
“God came to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10
The world rests uneasy.
Just a few weeks ago, artillery shells from North Korea sailed across the Yellow Sea and struck a South Korean island, killing four and injuring 18. Shortly afterward, the U.S. announced it was holding joint military exercises with South Korea and dispatched an aircraft carrier to the volatile region.
Within days of that incident, hundreds of thousands of confidential cables from U.S. diplomatic sources were published, revealing the backstage drama and tension of seeking to maintain peace and security in an increasingly unstable world.
The cables highlighted the growing concern over the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. Blunt remarks from several prominent leaders in the Middle East and Israel warned of the menace posed by a nuclear Iran, with one Arab leader referring to Iran’s president as “Hitler.”
This month, South Sudan will hold a referendum to decide whether to become an independent nation. If that happens, it will no longer be under the rule of the Muslim-dominated North. Many expect conflict to break out again, resuming the violence of two decades of civil war that killed more than 2 million civilians in the South.
None of this should surprise anyone who follows Christ and has a biblical worldview informed by the Scriptures. The Bible says that the heart of man is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), and from that depraved heart flows unending greed, lust, and desire for power. Mankind is lost in sin, alienated from God, at enmity with Him and with each other.
Jesus told us that while wars and natural disasters have always characterized this present evil age, these symptoms will increase at an alarming rate as the Second Coming of the Messiah draws near (Matthew 24).
However, none but the Father in Heaven knows when that will occur. Until that time, we are to be busy proclaiming and sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
While the world relentlessly and unsuccessfully pursues political and economic solutions to our problems, followers of Christ are to be busy sowing the seeds of the Gospel found only through faith and repentance in Him. Lasting peace and security will only come when the King returns and sets up His Kingdom.
At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we will be busy proclaiming that Gospel of the Kingdom around the world in this new year, starting in Haiti this month, followed by Liberia, the Philippines, Lithuania, India, Canada and the United States.
As the world sinks into increasing depravity, violence and turmoil, nothing is more critical than growing our roots deep into a stable faith in Jesus Christ, and making Him known to those around us. And be encouraged that as the world grows darker, the light of the Gospel shines ever brighter.
“In this world you will have tribulation,” Jesus said, but we can be of good cheer, for He added, “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version.
As I look around at the state of the union, our country and the world, I’m not encouraged about the future. Many people feel the same way today. There are not a lot of happy smiling faces around anymore.
Watch the news, and all you see is story after story of the disintegration of our culture. Violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and corporate scandals fill the headlines everyday. Lawlessness and immorality are running rampant right in front of our eyes every where you look.
Want to see the direction we are headed, just take a look at the entertainment industry. That’s always a good meter to read if you want to see where we are going. Vulgarity, nudity, unwholesome innuendos, are what our movies, music, and television are consumed with. It’s almost a race to see who can out do the others for higher ratings. There is no public embarrassment or outrage as they continue to push the boundaries of normal decency further and further out. People have become numb as we spiral further and further down this deadly road.
We have a president and an administration, that’s more liberal then any other in our history. They were dealt a severe blow in the last elections, but the long road we are on is by no means any closer to the end. Many are wondering what new laws are coming that will harm our security, our freedoms, and the sanctity of life and marriage. Especially Christians, who have a growing concern of vocal government hostility, that my hamper the way we worship and our ability to teach and preach the truth of the scriptures publicly.
Mix all these things together and add the “Christian Church” that is trying so desperately to be like the world, and it isn’t hard to see the many unanswered questions that we face today.
One question I hear a lot is, “where is God in all that is happening today?” Is His plans for our country, and for His people, being defused or sidetracked somehow?
That’s a question everyone has had in his heart and mind, weather you want to admit it or not. It’s easy to wonder that, with all this wickedness and immoral conduct taking place all around us, where God is? We are all concerned about the future for our children, and grand children, and what’s it going to be like for them?
You will never find the answer, or any source of truth, in the media or the many talk shows that are on the air. The answer is from God in His Word.
First, God is on the throne. Not a single molecule escapes His notice or operates outside of His immediate control. Despite the way things are going, He remains unchanging, immovable, and supremely in control. This is not some wishful thinking, or some pious platitude – it’s an anchor of truth we can’t rehearse enough.
Quit standing on the premises and start standing on the promises. God’s promises for His people have not changed and they will never change.
Our relationship with Him is irrevocable. This is true for us and every generation of believers that follow us.
Finally, God’s Word is not silent about what He is doing among sinful nations. The Bible offers clear, detailed insight into how He actively accomplishes His sovereign will through the worst expressions of natural depravity. Despite all this, scripture leaves no question about who is in control and what the ultimate outcome will be. God is always moving and working everything toward His ends and to achieve His means.
This should give every child of God, amazing security and comfort in grasping this truth. I pray it does for you.
If you would like to become a child of God, and you’re not really sure what that is and how it happens, click the picture below. We’re all prying for you.
“The Love of God” is an old hymn sung by “Mercy Me” Enjoy and be blessed.
This is an old hymn, that you don’t hear very much anymore in church. I just had to print it out here for you. Read the verses and take in the message of the song. There is a little side note at the end, about the song, that I didn’t know.
As you read the lyrics, think about the extreme love that God lavishly pours out on you and me every moment of every day of our lives. This incredible love can never really be understood be the unregenerate heart and mind. We can only begin to come to the very fringe of understanding God’s great love for us, as He comes into our lives and starts to change us to be more like Him. It is this great love of God, that even starts to take this tremendous task of changing your heart and mine, as His gracious gift to you and me.
Verse 3 was penciled on the wall of a narrow room in an insame asylum by a man said to have been demented. The profound lines were discovered when they laid him in his coffin.
Here is a link to the song with the words right in front of your eyes to read along. Be blessed
As I was getting ready for an appointment that I had this morning, I thought I would help my wife out as she was getting ready for work. I had some extra time, so I made her lunch and then went back to getting myself ready. I saw she was in a little rush so I told her that I would start her car for her and get it warmed up before she had to leave. The temperature was twenty degrees that morning, as we live in Michigan, and the winters can get cold.
As I was finishing brushing my teeth, I saw her getting her keys and running out into the cold to start her car. I yelled out, “honey, I will do that for you”, she said back to me as she ran by, “I need it done now”.
I was hurt. I thought to myself, she doesn’t believe me when I said that I would start her car and it would be all warmed up for her, before she had to leave. She didn’t trust me to handle that one simple little task. Have I ever let her down before? Well, yes, I guess I have at times, but not with something as simple as this was. I had already made her lunch and got the coffee ready this morning.
Then it hit. God was tapping me on the shoulder and He said to me, “Brian, that is an all to familiar scene with Me. How many times has you done that exact thing to Me.” I thought, ” you’re exactly right God, as You always are.”
How many times have I read in God’s Word, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Do I believe Him? Do I really trust what He says to be true? Has He ever let me down before? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it will show up in the way I live and respond to the circumstances in life.
When I respond to God as my wife responded to me, that really shows that I don’t trust Him. By my actions, I’m calling Him a liar. I’m saying that He can’t be trusted completely, and that’s what Satan did to Eve. He called into light the validity and truthfulness of God’s Word.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
When God says He’s got your back, that should take that burden away. I shouldn’t worry about that anymore. That’s the whole purpose of trusting someone. When I told my wife, I was going to start her car and have it all warmed up and ready to go, she should have said, thank you. That is something that I don’t have to worry about anymore. You have lifted that burden off of me and have taken it upon yourself. I can now move forward with one less task to carry, but she didn’t do that. Like I do with God, she continued to worry and carry that burden herself.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 You see, love is an action word. God just doesn’t say He loves us, He showed His love for all humanity, by dying on a cross for your sins and mine.
“but He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8
There is every reason my wife doesn’t totally trust me. I have let her down and have not always come through like I promised I would, but thank God, He is not like us. God is the One who is faithful, not you and me. He always comes through and He will never let us down. We need to quit standing on the premises and start standing on the promises.
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19
“casting all your anxiety onto Him,” because it matters to Him concerning you.” 1Peter 5:7
“Faithful is the One calling you, who also will perform it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 5:35
He is faithful and true, and yes, we can trust Him completely for everything in this life and the next.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.” Revelation 19:11
God’s Word brings us a comforting promise, along with an insightful command as we face a New Year: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
You and I can live this coming year without fear if we apply these four incredibly wonderful truths to our lives and root them deep into our hearts.
The Contentment Of His Provision
Contentment is not getting what you want, but it is wanting what you already have. First Timothy 6:6-8 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us therewith be content.” If you know Jesus Christ, you have contentment. If you’ve got clothes on your back, something to eat, and Jesus Christ in your heart, you’re rich!
Do you know why we have fear? Because we think our needs or the needs of someone we love are not going to be met. Or we fear that the things we think are meeting our needs are going to be taken away from us. The deepest need of your heart can only be met in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Companionship Of His Presence
I don’t know what I’m going to face next year. But there’s one thing I know, He will never leave me. Are you a child of God? He will never leave you either. Isn’t that wonderful!
What’s another reason we may fear in the coming year? Because we’re afraid we’re going to have to face something we don’t understand, and we’re going to have to face it alone.
When God’s Word promises that God will never forsake you, it literally means that He will never abandon you. He will not give up on you. We need to practice the presence of the Lord this coming year. When the devil comes and knocks at you heart’s door, you can simply say, “Jesus, please go answer the door.”
The Confidence Of His Promise
We’re going to zero in on a little phrase in our verses in Hebrews, “He hath said.” A promise is no better than the one who makes it. Who says, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”? It is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God. This is the confidence of His promise.
In the coming year, when you say, “God, I just don’t have the strength.” The omnipotent God will answer, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” When you say, “God, I’m afraid of what is going to happen.” The omnipresent God says, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” And when you say, “God, I don’t know what to do.” The omniscient God will respond, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” He himself hath said it.
The Comfort Of His Protection
Hebrews 13:6 promises, “So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Now, put that with verse five which says, “He hath said.”
Like I said earlier, I don’t know what you’re going to go through this coming year. But I know you can boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, so I will not fear what man shall do to me.” When you find your contentment, companionship, and confidence in Jesus. Then, you’ll find your comfort and courage in Jesus.
For many of us, we equate meditation with that great sculpture The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. It’s a man sitting on the world with his elbow on his knee and fist under his chin, contemplating the universe.
But meditation is far from just taking a seat, thinking and doing nothing. It’s not passive, nor powerless. Rather, meditation is reflecting, considering, pondering and contemplating. This is an active, deliberate effort to do something involving both mind and heart. And to follow this with action.
The Apostle Paul concludes his letter to believers in Philippi saying: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Our minds and imaginations run constantly. They never stop. Meditation then is a learned skill to focus and concentrate on reading, studying and reflecting on Scripture. In Philippians, Paul exhorts us to force our mind to deliberately fix its attention on God—and His works, world and Word. He instructs us to meditate on certain attributes of God and aspects of His creation.
Think, think, think. I have discovered several practical steps that help me to meditate on God’s Word in the midst of my hectic day:
Meditation is not a cloistered life in a monastery or the adoption of a life of reflection and silence (as good as that may be). It is learning to think of God in the busyness of real life. This does not come naturally. Much of this is found in being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Without reflection and meditation, our lives become aimless and lack order. We strive for purpose and meaning. Only in reflection and meditation can we examine and correct the trajectory of our lives and thus “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” (Colossians 1:10).
1. He plants you according to His plan.
Read Romans 8:28-29
2. He walls you in with His grace.
How has He protected you this week?
3. He tends you with His love.
No one loves you like God loves you.
Read Isaiah 40:11
4. He weeds out your unhealthy branches with His loving discipline.
Take Hebrews 12:11 to heart, and prepare yourself for new fruit.
5. He protects you with His divine power.
Nothing touches you that God does not allow. Trust Him to grow His best fruit in you today.
David understood one of the essential qualities of a leader, as we see in 2 Samuel 23:3. Anyone who wants to lead well must fear the Lord. When we talk about fearing God, we are not talking about a wrong kind of fear. We are talking about the reverential fear that causes us to bow in His presence and even to prostrate ourselves before Him and say, “My God, there is none like You; Whom shall I fear? If You are for me, what can man do to me?’
The apostle Paul wrote something in Galatians 1:10, He said, “Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ (the Messiah).”
We know Satan firsthand uses rejection to prevent us from going forward with the call of God on our our lives. Have you ever been attacked with rejection? The devil uses this very effective tool to keep us from making progress.
How many of you have gone to the bank to get a loan for your business and were turned down? Wanted more money to expand? Wanted to hire a few more people? How many people were skeptical when you told them you were starting a business, or joining a partnership with someone, or told you all of the reasons why they failed in business and why you would too? It’s very difficult to go on when you are being rejected by someone you love and care about or others who have the power and ability to help but do not buy into your vision. I know what that feels like when you take the leap of faith and do what you believe you have been called to do. I shudder to think what I might have sacrificed had I bowed down to the pressure and the weight of rejection. Everywhere I went for help they told me no, or I didn’t qualify, but thank God I didn’t give up.
Have you ever been in a situation when the devil leveled an attack against you at the same time when God was trying to promote you into the next level of what he has for your life?
Anyone who is going to do the will of God must have more fear of God than of man. We all want acceptance and for others to support our dreams. It takes courage to live your dreams. And you have to be willing to lose everything to do it. What does that mean? The trials and storms of life will come. They must. Do you stay and fight for the dream and the desire that you believe God has placed on the inside of you, or do you turn in defeat because it’s just too hard?
Anyone who is going to do God’s will must remember what Jesus told His disciples: “A servant is not greater than his master…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecut you” (John 15:20). He was saying, “If they reject you, in effect they are rejecting Me.” I believe the Lord takes it personally when people reject you because you are trying to do the right thing. He knows how you feel about being rejected, because He felt the same thing. He is your Vindicator; your reward comes from Him, and you must reverentially fear and honor Him more than anything or anyone else.
As you have made the decision, for God I live, and for God I die, know that God is equally commited to the promise as well. Romans 8:31,32 “What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?] [Ps. 118:6]
32 He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?
God approved of you before anybody else ever got a chance to disapprove. Do not spend your time playing it safe in the illusion of a down economy (because millionaries are being made everyday, banks are still giving corporate execs million dollar bonuses) don’t buy into the hype! Safety is very comfortable, but it may keep you from God’s perfect plan for your life. If we want to continue to succeed in this environment, our focus must be customer focus coupled with outstanding customer service. Not because it will keep your customer and repeat business, but if you never see them again, the honor and privilege is in being in a position to serve.
Trust His Word and keep your heart willing and ready to obey. Be willing to try new things, especially if it is something you have never done before. You will find throughout your life that God regularly calls us out of our comfort zones and into new places of faith and growth in Him.
On the way to your destination, enjoy the journey.
For some of you, these are very memorable words from a song that was released, by the BeeGees, back in 1968. They may bring back memories of romance, or of a love that didn’t happen. Words have that affect on us. Words are very powerful. They can conjure up memories, weather good or bad. They can also be very destructive.
Words are a way of communication. I think a thought or an in idea in my mind. I sit down, like I am doing right now, and put into words the thoughts or ideas that I want to communicate to you into these words. You read them and you now know a little bit more about whom I am and what I’m thinking, by the words that I just expressed. Words are one way of expressing to others who we are.
Words are not the only way of expressing ourselves to others. Art is another way. Acting, on a stage or through a motion picture, is another form of expression. The art of Mime is another way of expressing me.Through a series of actions; the mime paints a picture through a story to his viewers. All these are different ways for us to convey our feelings and thoughts to others.
But when you come down to the bare nuts and bolts of it, its through the vehicle of words that we are trying to say something.
How do the blind communicate when they have never seen? How do the deaf communicate when they have never heard a sound in their life? How do people, who can’t speak your language, communicate with you? Without words, it becomes very difficult to speak my thoughts to you.
Even the Creator Himself, could not communicate with us, until He became a man and had to enter our world, before we would ever begin to understand the message He was trying to convey to us. We can see His creative hand in the beauty of nature, the sun, moon and the stars, but we can never really truly understand someone until we here the words that they speak.
In the gospel according to John, chapter one and verse one, it says. “In the beginning was the word” The meaning of “word” is; to collect, to put words side by side, to speak. God spoke this world into existence. God’s words were powerful, but we did not understand Him. So He came into our world to talk to us. John 1:14 says; “The word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The living word of God was made flesh. He came into our world as a man, and that man’s name was Jesus Christ. “Dwelt among us”; means to pitch His tent. For all you campers out there, God pitched a tent down here on this earth for a short time and for a specific purpose; “He dwelt among us”
The point of all this is to show how important our words are. If God put so much emphasis on getting His word out to us, how much should we put into practicing the right words that we speak to each other.
Our words can speak truth and life into people or they can speak destruction and death. What is worse, physical or verbal abuse? They are both extremely bad and equally harmful.
The other side of speaking and communicating with our words is to express no words and shut down all communication. That is very bad also. This is something that I still struggle with to this day. It was something that I saw practiced in my home, when I was growing up, all the time. If I didn’t like what I saw or didn’t get what I wanted, I would go into the silent mode. No communication until you come on my terms. This is also very destructive.
There can be so much said about this topic, and I could go on and on, but lets bring this in for a landing.
Communication is a lost art today. We travel at such break neck speeds, we don’t have the time to sit down and share our thoughts and ideas, with others. Unless it’s for business or getting something that I want. Our thoughts and ideas are what makes us unique. It’s who you are.
Share your self through your words with that special person in your life. Your wife, husband, children, aunt, uncle, or very dear friend. Let them also share their words with you. That means you have to shut everything else down and go into listen mode. Not an easy thing to do today.
Better yet, find a person who doesn’t have anyone else to share their words with. Sit down and let them share. I know, it might not be easy. They may talk about things that you don’t really find interesting, but don’t forget….they will also listen to you as well.
After all; it’s only words….. And words are all I have….to take your heart away.
I have always thought myself as a meadow shepherd or a beside the still waters kind of a guy. Those are the familiar images of shepherding that I always envisioned. I have always assumed that is the goal in shepherding God’s flock as a pastor. I have always assumed that my expectation should be to lead a church into a place of nourishment and calm. I have believed that my job has been to lead the flock into places where they could be sustained and away from trouble, “beside still waters.”
Also, I have had a secret thought that has been in the back of my mind: Lord, please spare me the hard lessons in life as much is possible. To the best of my ability, I have avoided trouble.
In spite of my preferences, a few years ago, my life became rather tumultuous. I experienced several setbacks in my ministry at that time. Frankly, it caused me to question whether God had called me to be a pastor in the first place. Although I have met with some measure of success in ministry, nevertheless, the set backs and trials were seemingly unbearable and might point to a different conclusion rather than service in a pastoral ministry.
At that time, God chose to teach me a lesson about pastoring. He did it through an object lesson that to this day causes me to marvel at the Great Shepherd. I want you to journey back a few years and follow me up into some rugged mountains on a journey to learn about shepherding. It all began as I was on a trip with my wife Debra to visit with her family in Idaho. When I go to Idaho, I have a secret place up in the mountains that the locals know about. It’s a swimming hole that is located on an old Indian ceremonial site high up in the Boise National forest two hours north of Boise.
It was early summer and I was making my annual pilgrimage to the hot spring that I love to visit. Let me describe the trip: You drive north of Boise up into the mountains on a paved highway for a little over forty miles. You wind your way through a heavily forested valley another twenty miles on a narrow and roughly paved road. The paved roadway then turns into a gravel road. You travel six miles on gravel and turn onto a winding and twisting dirt road for another nine miles. You finally arrive at your destination high up in the Boise National Forest—one of the finest hot spring swimming holes you’ve ever seen.
On the way up the dirt road, I noticed a small herd of horses and mules sheltered along the road in a ravine and in amongst the trees, seemingly unattended. I thought it was interesting to see this herd abandoned up in the forest. Later, I would learn that they were not abandoned and were to be a part of the object lesson that the Lord would use.
On that day, my wife and I stayed at the hot spring and swam for a few hours and then started back down the mountain side. We had come to a crossroad in our life’s work and had prayed the night before regarding our ministry. The evening before, we entered a prayer chapel on the campus of a Christian college in my wife’s home town. We agonized in prayer asking the Lord to show us His desire for our ministry and the fledgling congregation that we were now leading.
As we were coming back down the mountainside, I had my wife read from the apostle Paul’s words from 2 Timothy 4. Specifically I had her read Paul’s words, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge” (2 Timothy 4:16). She read the chapter as we bounced down the dirt road and then closed her eyes to rest (the chapter was a valuable reminder of the hardships experienced in ministry but reading was unsettling to the stomach).
As we rounded a bend in the road, we saw sheep covering the roadway ahead. They were pouring out of a crevasse from the left side and crossing the road in front of us. Before we knew what was happening the road in this densely wooded stretch of road was filled with sheep. Mind you, we were traveling on a dirt road at almost a mile high in the Boise National Forest. The incline was so steep that any man would find it difficult to traverse. In the midst of huge boulders and pine trees, sheep seemed to be erupting out from the ravine as if from nowhere. I stopped the van and got out and found myself surrounded with sheep but there was no sign of a shepherd. All I heard was the bleating of sheep and the occasional clanging of bells that were hung around the necks of some of the sheep. At times a sheep would pause and look at me and then skitter on over to the right side of the road ascending up the hill.
I have traveled this road many times over the years, and I wondered as I saw the sheep ascending toward a ridge some 100 yards away, “Where in the world are the sheep going?” Many times I have looked over the side of the road and down the steep mountainside and worried about driving off the road. I have often wondered what it would be like to plummet down the thousands of feet to the treacherous valley below. Now I thought, “Here are all these sheep coming from nowhere journeying to a mountain ridge above that must lead to oblivion.”
For about fifteen minutes all I heard were bells clanging, bleating, the sheep chomping on vegetation, and yet the sheep kept coming. I wondered, what kind of shepherd would herd his sheep into such a rugged and wild place. Suddenly, I saw a huge white grungy looking dog come up out of the ravine [later I learned it was an ancient breed of dog called a Great Pyrenees]. I was not familiar with the breed, but he paused and looked at me as I looked at him. At first, I wondered, “Will he growl, bark or possibly lunge toward me?” He only paused, looked at me, surmised that I was no threat and then went on above into the tree canopied meadow moving among the sheep.
A moment later I could hear the shepherd’s voice down in the ravine calling out. Several minutes passed before I could see him climbing out of the ravine to a promontory by the roadside up and behind me. He watched over the balance of his flock that was still ascending the hillside.
Since my grandfather had been a shepherd as a boy in Romania I felt a kinship with this shepherd. I wanted to ask him some questions about his flock that came from nowhere and was headed to nowhere. He watched me as I made my way up the road. He stood above on a small cliff all dressed in Carhart pants and jacket, a leather hat, checkered shirt and a red bandana. He looked as if he had been for stroll in a park. His shepherd’s staff was a tree limb that reached from the ground to the height of his chin. His tall slender appearance was quite striking on that bright and sunny afternoon. His bearded face was tanned from exposure to the elements, and he didn’t seem winded from his climb up through the ravine. At his feet lay four border collie pups. As I approached him, a couple of the pups jumped to their feet and began to bark, but he spoke a word and the pups dropped down to lay down in silence.
When I finally stood before him I tried to strike up a conversation. I told him that my grandfather had been a shepherd when he was a boy. I asked if he were Basque, but he shook his head. I then asked where he was from and he strained in search of his words and stumbled to say, “Mex. . .” And I finished, “You’re from Mexico?” He nodded his head. I asked him, “How many sheep are you driving up the mountainside.” He hesitatingly said, “A thousand.” [I have learned since that a thousand sheep is a band and anything less is a flock.] I could tell we were going to have a language problem beyond my few questions so I cut our conversation short. I smiled, thanked him, and walked back toward our van. I was thinking to myself how much control one man exercised over so many animals. With a few dogs trained by this shepherd, absolute control was maintained over this huge assembly in the forest.
Before I could reach my car door, a mule came charging up the road at first by himself. He thundered past me and stood before the shepherd and began to bay. Before I could grasp what I was watching a horse came galloping up the road, stopped at a hundred yards down the road, and whinnied as if to shout at the mule and say, “get back here, you stupid mule.” The horse seemed to be the mule’s immediate superior and commander. Without a verbal command from the shepherd, the mule turned and galloped behind the horse down the road. As I opened the van door I found my wife, Deb, tearfully in awe of this shepherding feat. At that moment we didn’t exactly understand all that we had seen, but we recognized that there were spiritual lessons to be learned from this experience.
I quickly started the van and told her, “I want to follow the horse and mule to see where they go.” It was a guess on my part, but the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that the shepherd had trained the horse to keep the mule in line. I followed them as they trotted down the dirt road for a mile and half and realized that I had seen them earlier hidden and unattended in the ravine. They joined the other horses and mules to forage in the midst of the rocks and trees in their forest shelter.
SOMETIMES YOU SHEPHERD IN A HARD PLACE.
In the days that followed, I decided to take another look at shepherding in the Bible. As I studied the Scriptures, I learned a couple of lessons about shepherding and ministry. What I learned from the Bible was dramatized by the event in the woods. After all, the Lord had taken Jeremiah down to the potter’s house to teach Jeremiah a few things. In Jeremiah 18:2 God said, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Debi and I knew that the Lord had answered our prayer, and we knew we had to turn to the Scriptures in order to understand.
The first lesson I learned was that: at times a shepherd will lead his flock in a hard place. Shepherds don’t lead their flocks beside still waters and green pastures all the time. The next year a forest ranger told me that shepherds were contracted to bring their flocks into these inaccessible places. The purpose is to have the sheep feed on the under growth in these rugged areas in order to reduce the risk of fire spreading in the forest. Shepherding sheep in a woods is an ancient practice. Micah 7:14 pictures the shepherd tending to his flock in the woods, “Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.” Anyone familiar with the holy land is aware that Mount Carmel would be a treacherous place to herd sheep. Bashan and Gilead are also wooded areas and yet it was understood that God’s flock would rest in such places and find nourishment there. In contrast, we have come to expect that if we are doing our job correctly, our surroundings will always be pleasant and consistent with our understanding of success. Like a shepherd, at times a pastor will shepherd his flock in a hard place.
In the age of comparisons with the Mega-church and when success is measured in nickels and noses, another idea must be remembered by the under-shepherds and flock: At times sheep and shepherds alike pass through hard places and difficult times and yet God has not forsaken them. Consider the apostle Paul’s experience in Rome, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me . . . .” (2 Timothy 4:16). Should we conclude from Paul’s words that Paul had failed or that God had abandon him? No, of course not.
THE SHEPHERD IS IN CONTROL OF VARIOUS ELEMENTS
I fear we live in a time in America where patience is in short supply. Since a worldly value system at times reigns in the hearts and lives of churchmen, it is assumed that hard times demonstrate that God has abandoned His people and servants. While my experience in the forest seemed to point to a situation that was out of control, nothing could have been further from the truth.
The second lesson I learned was: being in a hard place didn’t prove that the shepherd had lost control. He drove sheep, commanded dogs, worked through trained horses and even mules—he was in absolute control. This place is near a trail marker which reads, “Rattlesnake Trail, Elevation 5120 ft.” There was a mule on the ridge grazing among the sheep trained to protect the flock from rattlesnakes. Unfortunately, when we go through hard times, we conclude that the Lord, the Great Shepherd, has lost His touch but nothing could be further from the truth. Isaiah 49 speaks of how the people of God and shepherds can feel abandoned by God. In Isaiah 49:14 the Lord comforts His people when Isaiah wrote: “But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me,’ And my Lord has forgotten me.’” In verse 15 we read the Lord’s response to such foolish talk: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” The Lord works through men, and angels, and uses adversity to mold and shape our lives and ministry. He is in absolute control for His grand purpose.
A SKILLED SHEPHERD CAN LEAD HIS FLOCK IN RUGGED TERRAIN
The third lesson I learned was: a skilled shepherd can lead a flock anywhere and whenever. This skilled shepherd delivered his flock on a mountain side in a place men would not expect. A year later I learned that there was nothing beyond the ridge line. It does drop almost straight down a couple of thousand feet. I know men prefer to begin congregations in the place where community growth patterns are most favorable to planting a church, but God can place a congregation in a hard place. You may not be a pastor but you are going through a hard time. Recognize that the Lord, the Great Shepherd, can lead you through a hard place if you’ll let Him. The clear mark of something that God does is that it defies conventional wisdom and it can be unorthodox running counter to the accepted way of looking at things.
FAITH PREPARES FOR RADICAL CHANGE
The sheep came pouring out of the ravine as if they were erupting out of the ground itself. There is a fourth lesson and that is we need to be ready for sudden change. Micah 2:12 provides another glimpse of God’s promise to His flock Israel, “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.” Years later I still marvel at the shepherding feat that we had witnessed. A thousand sheep in a rugged and desolate place. The Lord spoke to Israel through Isaiah and made a similar promise, “For your waste and desolate places, And the land of your destruction, Will even now be too small for the inhabitants; And those who swallowed you up will be far away. The children you will have, After you have lost the others, Will say again in your ears, ‘The place is too small for me; Give me a place where I may dwell.” (Isaiah 49:19-20.) I’m not suggesting these promises were made to us. These are promises to Israel. But we do serve the same God and there is a pattern here. He takes things away from His people and in time restores our blessing. We must learn to bide our time in faith and confidence.
This event marked a radical change in my ministry. I have learned that the Lord takes things a way from us to give us something different. He will not always give us more, but it will always be better. We must learn to trust the Lord even in these hard times. Others may have forsaken us but the Lord cannot. If we are to inherit abundance we must learn to trust the Lord in times of lack and distress. The times of lack are times when we must prepare in faith for what God intends to do. These hard times must be times of anticipation of God’s great reward. When hard times come we dare not think my time must have past, we ought to say: I better be getting ready. Like Sarah unbelief laughs at God’s promise (Genesis 18:12). Faith gets the nursery ready.
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(Permission is granted to use the material as long as the URL and source information are given. Copyright, Keith Churilla, 2010.)
Life is full of emotions and feelings. We are surrounded and raised, from the time we enter this world, on feelings and emotions. They mold us and form us into what and who we become. This is a given. There is no way around this fact. We do not choose the parents we have or the house we are going to be raised in.
Some have been raised, and their lives have been molded, by homes that have been built on guilt and shame, stress and anxiety. These are lives that will grow up with anger and depression problems. Every day will be a struggle for them. They will know no other way, but to push and shove their way through life trying to find that emotional balance that will lead to happiness and a good self image. The environment that we live in will dictate what kind of foundation or platform our personalities and characters will be poured into. This will set the stage of what kind of struggles we will face that will make us who we become.
I was raised in a home that the word “love” was never spoken, except when we were all going to bed. We would recite back to my parents, “goodnight, I love you”. It become so much a part of us and our routine, that we would just say it without much thought or meaning behind the words. That pretty much described the environment I grew up in. Words had no meaning and never were taken at face value. There were always under lying motivations behind what people said. Their true feelings and emotions could never be put on display. Although I have made almost a complete turn around from this training, I still struggle with this to the present day, and probably always will.
When I looked at my mom and dad, I saw all the struggles and the life and environment that they had to grow up in. They were just doing the best that they could with what they had been given. They loved me and did the best that they knew how. They could never breakout of the pattern that was set in motion during the formative years of their lives.
Because of my foundation and environment, my personality and character were poured into a mold that didn’t fit me. It wasn’t until I grew up and went out to form a life of my own, that I really grew up. I realized who I really was. My strengths and my weaknesses and everything that made me….me. With a new pattern to follow, I have peace. I’m not saying there are no more struggles, because there are, but with a new me, I now have a new arsenal of weapons against the enemies of the past and the circumstances of the future.
I met Jesus Christ along the road called life, and He used people and circumstances to show me who I really was. Through His word, He put me into the mold that fit me like a glove. The one that He had always intended for me all along.
My wife came from a horrid back ground. Both physical and emotional abuse from a father who had an even worse back ground then hers. Those emotional scares are passed down from generation to generation. It’s a never ending cycle.
There is a statement that my wife often talks about that is as vivid in her memory banks as if it just happened yesterday. Her father told her, that it looked like she was smuggling two watermelons in her hips. That statement was ingrained into her and she struggles with her physical appearance to this day. Now my wife is a very beautiful women. I mean no disrespect to any of the thin women out there, but God gave women to have those curves and those hips that give them the shape that drives men crazy. Marilyn Monroe was a shapely size twelve. But those words spoken to her over thirty years ago, still follow her around like an emotional assassin, trying to kill anything good that comes into her life.
Do you remember a statement or a name that people used to call you when you were young? Does it still sting you today? How words can build us up and also can be so damaging. High schools can be some of the most dangerous places, not just physical, but emotional as well.
My father always told me I was never going to amount to anything. I was stupid and was only going to be a garbage man for the rest of my life. I know that he said those words out of frustration and anger, but they still hurt. Be careful of your words.
Some Forms of Emotional Abuse
Some people use the environment they grew up in as an excuse to have their way with people. They have no desire to be anything but how they were raised. If you were raised on a good platform, that’s a good thing. Be who you are and accentuate your strengths. Help those who may be going down the same path that you have traveled. But when you think about it…we all have a little baggage that we carry around. We could all use a little tweaking.
In conclusion, take a long hard look in the mirror. What do you really see? Be honest, because your dishonesty can hurt so many people. You see when I walk around with a defective me, it effects all my family, friends, co-workers, spouse, and all those people who love and want to be close to me. My inability, or just down right hardness of heart, will lead to grief, causes of depression, emotional stress, and anger problems, and someone that you really cares about me…and someone that loves me and really desires to get close to me, won’t be able too. Why?…because I have made them my emotional punching bag. I need to let all this pain out somewhere and on somebody and it is always the one who sees who I really am and loves me anyway. This is always the person who we beat up day after day after day. We are driving away the one, and maybe only person, who really loves us for who we are, and despite the hits they stay. Because they really care.
When the storms of life toss you to and fro, and all the smoke clears… look to see who is at your right… and who is at your left. Those are your real friends. Those are the people who really love you.