I stared in astonishment. Three branches cut from a tree; no longer attached to their life source. Two branches were in flowerpots, the third, nailed to the other two to form an arch. No big deal, except for one thing, they were still producing blooms. No longer getting any nutrients or water, they were totally detached from their life source, yet they bloomed. As I reflected on the branches my mind drifted to the possibility that Christians may be doing the same thing in the midst of COVID-19. We can put off the appearance of being alive, but in reality, be disconnected from the life source. Know this, Jesus is the source of life for you and your family. Want proof? Lazarus is laying in a tomb and Jesus is trying to build hope in Mary. At one-point Jesus looks at Mary and says, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” Struggling to believe, Jesus takes Mary and her friends to the tomb where Lazarus lays, and with three words, “Lazarus, come forth,” demonstrates that He is the source of Life. I’m afraid that in this time of pandemic many have drifted away from the source of Life. We look alive, can say the right things but we’ve detached ourselves from God. Bibles lay dormant with dust, prayerlessness has become the daily norm and the atmosphere of our homes are filled with more of this world’s movies, music and media than anything spiritual. Though we’re without excuse, we skip out on Midweek Services and catch just enough of the Sunday service to say we watched if anyone asked. Carnality has replaced Christianity. Is there hope? Yes! Unlike the trees that will eventually drop their blooms and dry out, we can confess that we’re weak and have walked away and God will reattach us. Romans 11:23 says when someone turns back to God, that “God is able to graft them in again.” Isn’t that what happened to the prodigal son? He had got detached from his father, lost all he had and nearly died, but in his lowest moment realized, my dad will take me back. Are you away from God? Have you not only isolated from society but from God? You may think you alive, but it’s just a matter of time until you will feel the effects of being detached. I encourage you, seek God, return to righteousness and let God bring you back to life.
Three blue eggs. Mary and I have been observing them almost daily since the middle of March. Being in “stay at home mode” has allowed us to keep tabs on the process, and it is a process. Momma robin is persistent, faithful and determined. The progression is really quite amazing. At some point her body told her she is going to produce eggs. Immediately she went into search mode and found the right tree. One where she and her eggs would feel safe from predators. One that would support her nest for the duration. It would have to stand against the elements. Finally, it had to be durable, something that could stand the test of time and allow her to be undisturbed. It just so happened that she chose a tree that was right outside our family room window. Once she found her tree, the building process began. Twig by twig, grass and mud were brought to the tree. Finally, after about a week, the nest was ready. Then, one morning, they were there, three bright blue eggs. Since that day she has rarely left the nest. She has been there when it’s cold, when there were storms and high winds and even when the day was sunny, and the weather was perfect. She stayed, setting on her nest. Occasionally we will get too close, and she takes flight. From a nearby tree she chirps loudly, letting us know she’s watching. Once it is safe, she returns and sets. How long will it last? We really don’t know; she is there for the duration. Seeing this process over the past two months has been fascinating and also has brought a challenge. It begs the question. What are we committed to? What are we building that would cause us to be as persistent, faithful and determined? Shouldn’t our homes be much like the robins? Are we being careful about what we build into our lives? Shouldn’t our homes be safe places that are protected from the elements of this world? While we can’t control everything that goes on around us, we should be building safe places for our families. Finally, do we have determination? Determination to do whatever it takes to make sure we protect what God has given us. He has given us salvation, His grace and mercy, His Spirit, and sometimes I’m afraid we don’t value it. Determination says, “nothing shall separate me from the love of God.” It says, “we will never leave Him or forsake Him.” Determination is passion that is so passionate that it will causes us to be like Jesus disciples. Once cowards, they became so committed, that they died as martyrs. It is like Paul said, “I must know Him.” Back to our bird, when does it all end? She really doesn’t know, but she is committed to the process and one day she will get her reward. Three beautiful robins. What is true of momma robin is true for us. We don’t know when God will return, but we do know this, “one day we will be like Him.” Live life with persistence, passion and determination. One day it will be worth it all.
Feeling alone? You’re not alone. One of the most difficult parts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that so many are dealing with the feeling of loneliness. There are so many segments of society who are experiencing the emptiness of connection. We have senior citizens who are being extra careful to avoid social interactions. Widows and widowers are feeling more abandoned than ever. Singles and those who have divorced are dealing with a newfound isolation. While loneliness is difficult, may I suggest it might be where God wants us to be. It’s in alone times when we often hear God’s voice and see His greatness. It’s Abraham walking up a hill with his son, alone with his thoughts and what God has asked him to do. But it’s in that alone time that he sees God step up. Laying Isaac on the altar, raising the knife to sacrifice his son, God steps in, grabs the arm of Abraham and the rest of the story is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It’s Daniel, standing up for God, and being rewarded by getting to stand between two guards, and thrust into a lion’s den. The door shuts behind him and he now stands alone in fear, uncertainty and a den full of lions. What he didn’t see was that God had stepped into the den of lions with him. As Daniel sleeps, so do the lions. God is glorified and Daniel is never the same. Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego are thrust into a fiery furnace, certain that their lives are over, they are unaware that God had stepped in too. Their foe sees “a fourth man in the fire, calls them out and they experience the miraculous transformation of a heathen nation that will say, “the Lord, He is God.” Elijah, overwhelmed by the discouraging events of the day says, “I alone am left, and they (my adversaries) seek my life,” but what he didn’t understand was this was not the end of his life, but the beginning of a whole new dimension. God stepped in and overwhelming fear is met by an overwhelming God. I want to challenge you today, don’t be dazed by the feeling of loneliness. It may be that God has brought you to a place called alone so that you can see Him in His greatness and your life in a who new dimension. Alone is where God works best. Alone is when you done your best, you’re at the end of your rope and hope seems lost, but that’s often when God steps up and steps in. When you feel alone, know this, you are alone with God.
Just over a week ago we would have been watching “One Shining Moment,” the culmination of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. It’s a video collage of the exhilarating winning moments and crushing defeats during the tournament. One moment you can be the hero and the next day have your face in a towel, crying that it all over. Do you ever wonder if you will ever have a defining moment or if you’ve missed your “one shining moment?” What about your defining moment in Christ?
This week I was reflecting on the ebbs and flows of Simon Peter’s life. His first encounter with Jesus was on a seashore where he is fishing, and Jesus invites him to become a fisher of men. We would definitely call that a defining moment, from a fisherman to a follower of Jesus. Another shining moment is when Jesus ask, “who does men say that I am?” Simon Peter says, “you are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Jesus commends Simon Peter and give him the keys to the kingdom. We would imagine that Simon Peter lived on that moment for a while. In another moment, not nearly as gratifying, Jesus calls Simon Peter, “Satan” and tells him to get behind him. Had Simon Peter allowed that moment to define him, it could have crushed him and caused him to walk away. If that moment doesn’t crush him, how about the three times he denies Jesus as he is being crucified? He curses, denies and runs. A defining moment none of us would want to remember. Yet Simon Peter survives and stands in what many would call his highest moment, preaching the message of repentance on the Day of Pentecost. We would likely call that, his “One Shining Moment.” But there was more to come. Simon Peter has a bias, he is only preaching the Gospel to Jews, but in a moment on a roof top and an invitation to Cornelius’ house, he opens to Gospel to the world. His shadow will heal people, he will write two personal books of the Bible and help Mark pen his book. While he likely did not realize it, those writings would impact millions of people. Finally, maybe his defining moment was hanging upside down on a cross, counting himself unworthy to die in the same fashion as his Savior. So many moments, so many things that could be his defining moment. But may I suggest this. That his defining moment was when he said yes to Jesus. That’s when his life, his world and his destiny changed.
Your defining moment? It will not be when you do something spectacular or amazing. It won’t be a failure or mistake that might seem insurmountable. Your defining moment? The moment you say yes to Jesus. That’s when everything in your life, whether you understand it or not, begins to work for your good. Your “yes” to Jesus is the beginning of the best days of the rest of your life.
Empty. It’s not a word we necessarily like. Running late, we hop in the car, look at the gas gauge and it’s on empty. You get a bowl out of the cabinet, get the milk out and go to grab your favorite box of cereal, only to find someone has left a nearly empty box in the cabinet. Ever been in a relationship that felt empty? It seems no matter how much you pour into the relationship, somehow it still feels empty. I must admit that there are times in my own life I feel like I’m running on empty. Empty, it means containing nothing, vacant or unoccupied, and while the word often leaves us frustrated, there is one instance where we are thankful for empty. Easter, the one moment we celebrate empty. A broken and empty hearted Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James are taking spices to anoint Jesus’ body and we they get there, they are met with the unfathomable, the stone is rolled away and a tomb that is empty. Met by an angel they hear the words we will forever celebrate, “He is not here, He has risen.” It’s the one instance when empty means full. An empty tomb means a resurrected savior. An empty tomb means that death, hell and the grave has been defeated. An empty tomb means the blood of Jesus has power over the power of sin. An empty tomb means we have access to God; to His grace, mercy and love. An empty tomb means our lives can be full of His Spirit, joy unspeakable and unlimited possibilities. An empty tomb means we can look forward to an eternal life. My life is full because of an empty tomb. Easter. An empty tomb. The one moment when empty means full!
If I were with Jesus and were to have been writing a journal, my entry today would have gone something like this. Today was an amazing day. We celebrated with Jesus as He made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. I feel like this is the beginning of something big. Only kings are celebrated like we celebrated today. The people lined the streets, coats and palm branches were laid in front of Him and more palm branches waved over us as we entered Jerusalem. The crowd sounded like a roaring river saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.” I can’t wait to see what this week holds. Little did they know, but God did. As He rode in on the colt that day, He knew He was just five days away from a kangaroo court, a scourging and a wooden cross. They never saw it coming on the day of that joyous Triumphal Entry. Five days later exuberant disciples are filled with horror, overwhelmed, dismayed and fearful as events that were beyond their imagination are taking place. Emmanuel, God with us, is hanging and dying, the creator being destroyed by His creation. That day, they didn’t think life could ever get any worse, or that there would ever be hope again. Life had come crashing down, dreams were dashed, and hearts broken. It was good while it lasted, but this was the end, except God knew, this was not the ending but the beginning. Just as He knew that the cross was coming on the day of the Triumphal Entry, He knew the Resurrection was coming in three days. I say this in light of what we are living through today. While we have been caught off guard, God hasn’t. He knew that this storm was coming, that COVID-19 would change our lives, but He’s not overwhelmed. Not only did He know when it was coming, He knows when it will end. He sends the disciples into the night knowing the storm would come, but shows up just in time, calms the storm and gives greater revelation to His disciples of His power. Daniel 2:21 says, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs (seasons).” In other words, God’s got this. Our current battle with COVID-19 reminds me so much of what it must have felt like at that first Easter. There was so much ebb and flow, so much fear and uncertainty, but as then, so now, God is always in control. He has always been, and He will always be. Trust Him when it doesn’t make sense.
Imagine a pristine place. A place where there is no sickness, pain, hurt or sorrow. Days are filled with peace and tranquility; there is one objective, enjoy God’s creation. Travel and see mountains, oceans and the most scenic views. No work, struggle or guilt. This is what God created for us, but in one moment it is all torn away. One act of disobedience, eating from the tree in the middle of the garden, spins the world into a place beyond repair. Genesis 6 says that man’s thoughts were on evil continually, that the earth was corrupt and filled with violence. Jesus says in Luke 17 that in the times of Noah that people were consumed with eating and drinking, partying, without any fear of judgement. In ten generations the earth goes from purity to putrid. God finds one righteous man, Noah, cleanses the earth, and starts over, but again, in 10 generations the world is filled with depravity. In Genesis 19 we find Abraham as he is bargaining with God for the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. He initially asks God to spare the city if he can find 50 righteous people, in the end, he must negotiate down to finding 10 righteous people. Jude 1 says that the people in Sodom and Gomorrah lived for fornication, sexual immorality and unnatural desires. Jesus said in Luke 17 that the city was filled with eating and drunkenness. The point to notice in these accounts is this, although sin starts small, like a virus, it explodes exponentially. In light of what we’re are living through right now and experiencing in society, I encourage you to take account of your life. Paul says in Galatians 5, “that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Are you trending toward sin or things that might bind or control you? How will they impact your children? Just as we must practice social distancing, may I suggest that we must live lives where we distance ourselves from the negative influences and sin of this world. We can’t live for the minimum of God and the maximum of this world, we must do the opposite, seek God first, make pleasing Him our highest priority. When we do, we will find something else that explodes exponentially; happiness, joy and peace.
This is not the first time a people or nation has stood at a place of uncertainty. The Children of Israel stood at a Red Sea in fear, enemies behind them and water in front of them, but God was with them and brought them through. Elijah’s servant was overwhelmed when he stepped out of his house to see hills filled with enemies, but the man of God calmed his fears by praying that God would give his servant a new vision. With a new perspective Elijah’s servant sees differently, a host of angels surround him, and though he doesn’t know how, he knows that God is with them. We must hold on to three important principles when we walk through times that feel uncertain. First, know that the God who has brought us to this point can bring us through times of crisis. Second, have a God view. Like Elijah’s servant, we can become enamored with what appears to be. News programs, social media and pandemonium creates very overwhelming pictures, but those with a God faith understands there is another outlook, the God view. Finally, how we view difficult moments is critically important. Moses sends twelve spies to inspect the Promised Land, upon their return, two reports surface. 10 spies, the majority, only saw impossibilities and brought fear. Two spies saw with right perspective and spoke possibility. Seeing correctly is critical. As we navigate this current crisis, choose to have faith, trust God and speak hope. Live with this mindset; that when uncertainty comes, that you will turn to the one thing that is certain, the power and possibility of God.
The average American consumes 150 lbs. of sugar each year. Yes. 150 pounds! On average, 80% of the foods we eat contains sugar. Even when we order many of the vegetables in restaurants, they have added sugar, for flavoring. There are very few recipes that don’t involve adding at least a teaspoon of sugar. When we see numbers on packages or menus, they seem small and insignificant, but are you aware that “just 4 grams of sugar” is equal to a teaspoon. So, when we see something that says only 10 grams of sugar, we think, that’s not very much and proceed to eat whatever it is, not realizing what we just ate was equal to 2½ teaspoons of sugar. A little here and a little there and at the end of the year, boom! 150 lbs. My study on sugar got me thinking, what if the average Christian would just add “just a little bit of Jesus” to everything we do? Add a little bit of Jesus, say a few minutes of prayer or some Bible verses, to your day before your kids go off to school and you go off to work. What if we added just a little bit of Jesus, say like, God let me be used for you today, spend me on someone, before we headed off to Target, the mall or out to eat. What if we became intentional about adding a little bit of Jesus to everything we do? What difference could it make. If 4 grams of sugar equals 150 lbs. in a year. What would happen in our lives, families and homes? Let’s make a commitment to adding “just add a little bit of Jesus” to everything we do.
Renovation. It’s the craze. Find a home, imagine and create. Draw plans and count cost. Take out walls and create open concept. Rearrange the kitchen; combine it with the dining room. Create a master suite with a bath that is elegant. Finally, spruce up the outside and give it an outdoor entertaining space. And best of all, it all gets done in one hour! Or so it appears. The reality is that it takes a lot more time and there are more problems than anticipated. Structural issues, old wiring and hidden surprises in the walls create delays and add cost. In the end, though there have been struggles, a beautiful home comes together. The first look always seems to involve a family crying and overjoyed as they view their dream home. What is true of the renovation of a home is also true in the renovation of a soul. When God sees broken lives, He also sees potential. Long ago He purchased any life that would welcome Him. He knew that we had structural issues; a tendency to lie, lust and fail. Yet, He said, I can make something amazing. Simon Peter, a salty fisherman is turned into a powerful preacher. Paul, a broken and angry man is transformed into a missionary that will change the world. It doesn’t happen in a minute. For Simon Peter, it took three years with God in flesh. For Paul, it would take an experience with Stephen and years in a desert. You are a project, purchased by God. It is not yet known what we will become, but this we know, we will be like Him. Have faith in God, your project manager. He makes broken beautiful.
The Super Bowl. From the moment the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs won their conference championships, they turned their focus on each other. For the past two weeks, players from both teams have been studying, pouring over video, looking for any tendency, weakness that might give them an advantage over their opposition. It doesn’t matter if it is an interior lineman, punter or quarterback, each person at each position, has been looking for one thing that might give them an advantage. This is the game of their life. It is the fulfillment of a dream that began in a backyard with neighborhood friends. It’s the culmination of living in weight rooms, long bus trips and countless hours of sore muscles and untold pain. They have fought through high school, college and pro try-outs, all for the dream of someday playing in the Super Bowl. Now, if one small weakness can be found, it might make the difference in being a champion. We too are in a battle, it’s for eternal life. Satan, our opponent, scours over our lives, looking for any weakness or temptation he can use to bring us down. Can he find a way to bring discouragement to our heart? Maybe an issue that will bring agitation to our mind. He longs for anything that might give him an advantage over us. To live as Christians, without being aware of this battle, would be foolish. We must live with resolve. Keep building faith by reading God’s Word, strengthen resolve by praying habitually and renew spiritual strength by consistently fasting. Make 2020 the year that you resolve to be a stronger Christian.
Gate Agent. You had one job to do. Get the people on the plane in an orderly manner. It was as simple as A-B-C, and it started out well. A call for people with tickets in Group A 1 – 60. Everyone lined up and began to board. But somehow between A and B, he got confused, distracted, overwhelmed; who knows. As the final passengers in Group A are headed to the gate and those in Group B start to line up, he flipped the switch, literally and mentally. Without calling for Group B, he moves right to Group C and flips the monitors to C. Within moments there’s chaos, confusion and frustration. Group A is still trying to board, Group B is trying to figure out what happened, and Group C is pushing toward the gate, realizing they had just got an opportunity to get a better seat. The frustration turned to tension as those who knew how the process worked, and had secured their preferable position, now were losing their seat. Now it’s chaos. May I suggest this is what sometimes happens to us who are supposed to gate keepers of our homes and families. We lose focus, bend rules, get out of the Book and before we know it our lives, families and homes are in chaos. As simple as it should have been for the Gate Agent to keep A-B-C in order, it should be for us to keep our spiritual priorities in order. Make the Gospel your life’s priority, seeking Him and His will your goal, live in obedience to His Word and make prayer a priority. One simple job. Keep the gate.
The story of Nehemiah brings to focus a man’s life that was impacted by difficulty. He was a part of a group of immigrants that were brought in by the Babylonians when they overtook his nation. Nehemiah rises through the corporate setting of Babylon, becoming the cupbearer to King Artaxeres. As cupbearer, he is the chief financial officer, responsible for all the food and drink that came to the king and for securing the kings signet ring, a ring that was effectively the king’s signature on national laws. It’s with this life back drop that friends from his homeland show up. In what was likely just some small talk, Nehemiah asks about the environment in Jerusalem. The report becomes a defining moment in Nehemiah’s life and changes his destiny. His friends report that the people are in disarray, the walls of the city are broken down and there is no leadership. The report instantly overwhelms Nehemiah. He sat down, wept, mourned, prayed and fasted for many days. His life is redefined. God has divinely positioned him so he can impact God’s Kingdom. Within months, the career as cupbearer has been captured by concern for God’s Kingdom. God positions Nehemiah with the ability to make a change. He has the king’s authority, financial liberty and a vision for Jerusalem that has been birthed in prayer. Nehemiah’s story is a challenge for all of us, we are not called to our careers but the Kingdom. Regardless of what you are doing, God has positioned you for a purpose. As you enter 2020, I encourage you to seek God and find what His Kingdom purpose is for you.
Twelve disciples. Three and a half years. They had eaten meals with Him, had fire side chats with Him, went through storms with Him, witnessed His miracles and heard Him teach and preach. With all of Jesus’ qualities and giftings, they could have asked Him to teach them anything; how to do miracles, to preach or to lead. They wanted one thing. Jesus, teach us to pray. Why? I believe they saw what we often fail to see and understand. Jesus’ strength, power and faith came by being in alignment with Heaven’s plan. While He was fully God, He was also fully man. Prayer kept Jesus focused, kept Him on task and allowed Him to be sensitive to the needs that would come His way each day. Prayer kept Jesus’ agenda on the Kingdom. When He went into the wilderness, He prayed. Before He fed the 5000, He prayed. Before meeting the disciples in the storm, He prayed. When Calvary was in His view, He went to the garden and prayed. The disciples took notice and they understood if they were to accomplish anything in the Kingdom, more than anything else, they needed the ability to pray. His teaching worked; it became an engrafted part of the disciple’s spiritual DNA. They were in prayer when there was a “suddenly” in the upper room. They were on their way to pray when the spirit prompted them to pray for a lame man. After jail time and a confrontation with the Sanhedrin, they prayed. The result, the place was shaken, and new boldness came to their lives. 2020 Vision. Let us understand that prayer is our greatest need. Lord, teach us to pray.
Ten years ago. It was 2009 and we were preparing to step into a new decade. We were celebrating the move out of Brooks School Elementary into our new home at 11616 E. 126th Street. No more setting up and tearing down. We were proud, thankful and grateful. All 70 of us. For the first time in our short history we had a home. We had 150 chairs. We could meet on Wednesday evenings, have choir practices and we actually had rooms for kids’ classes! We thought we had arrived. Now, as we close the decade, just 10 years later, I marvel at what God has done. From 70 people to over 300 who now call Life their home, we have witness God’s faithfulness as we have shared His gospel. We have seen God do amazing things. We close out 2019 with an expanded campus and a spirit of expectancy and excellence. As we prepare to step into a new decade it seems to be just as it was in 2010, a launching pad moment. We enter 2020 with 4K cameras and live broadcast that will take our services around the globe and new seating that will give us the ability to seat nearly 500 people. What will the next 10 years be like? God only knows. What is our responsibility. The same as it was as we stepped from 2009 to 2010. To pray. To keep seeking God with all of our hearts. To ask God to do it again, to bring another outpouring of His Spirit as He did in the book of Acts. Let’s trust Him to take us further than our greatest imagination both in our own lives and at Life.
Spontaneity. It’s a person walking up to a Salvation Bell ringer and beginning to sing Christmas carols with them. It’s a child, reacting to a gift that was totally unexpected; so overwhelmed that they respond without thinking…spontaneously! Spontaneity is a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation. It’s natural and unconstrained; unplanned. Spontaneity, it’s the way God wants us to live and what He wants us to experience. Mary hears that she is highly favored, that she will be overshadowed by the Spirit and she will birth Emmanuel, God with us. Without thinking, she reacts and says, be it unto me! It’s Elizabeth, upon seeing Mary, feeling her baby leap inside her and exclaiming loudly, “blessed are you among women.” It’s shepherds in a field, experiencing an explosion of light and songs of angels, and without thinking, leaving their sheep and going to see the baby Jesus. What does it take to experience spontaneity? It takes stepping out and acting when it’s not on our daily agenda. It takes hearing, believing and acting when we hear God’s subtle voice prod us. It is responding in faith, without completely thinking it through. It’s the spontaneous moments, the “suddenlys,” that change our lives. It’s often the spontaneous moments that our families remember the most. The gift of spontaneity, it changes our days from the mundane to magnificent. It leaves us with a smile on our face and a warm place in our heart. It’s where you want to live, it’s what God wants you to experience. Live in, live for, His gift of the spontaneous!
One of the best ways to grow as a Christian is to pick up some encouraging inspirational reading. Maybe you’re looking for a little something extra on your Christmas list? Here are the Top Ten Pastors Picks for some good reading in 2020.
• Addicted to Busy – Brady Boyd
• Boundaries – Dr. Henry Cloud
• Draw a Circle – Mark Batterson
• Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt – Jentezen Franklin
• Not a Fan -Kyle Idleman • Storms – Jim Cymbala
• The End of Me – Kyle Idleman
• The Noticer – Andy Andrews
• Unshakable Hope- Max Lucado
• Whisper – Mark Batterson
Here we go! It’s Christmas season. Trees are going up. Decorations are being hung. Parties and events put on calendars. All leading to a December 25th celebration. What we do each year resembles the spirt of heaven as they prepared for our Saviors birth. Imagine with me the gasps of Heaven as our Lord begins to unfold His plans. From what family, what lineage will you come? A king? A priest? A politician or religious leader? God responds, no, a twelve-year-old girl who will be engaged to a fourteen-year-old young man. A puzzled look. A frown and questions. Are you serious? Don’t you realize the ramifications? What people will say? God says, I’m fully aware. This way people will know that I can come to anyone in any situation. Another angel, sensing tension, asked from what city will you come? Jerusalem? Hebron? No, Nazareth. More puzzled looks and questions. Why Nazareth? It’s off the beaten path? A poor and forsaken area? God replies, yes, so I can identify with those who are forgotten and broken. As the Heavens grow more still, another asks. When will you go? God responds, around the time that Caesar Augustus takes a census. More gasps. Gabriel says, you realize that means that she will be nearly full term? That they will have to travel for Nazareth to Bethlehem. The weather, it will be cold and wet. Yes, I know, but I will be with them and as I am with them, I will be with others who face hardships. The story of Christmas is not so far from your story. A story with ebb and flow, twist and turns. Christmas. It teaches us to never lose faith and never lose hope. God is with us.
Thank you, Jesus. Above all, we give thanks that the God that created all, robed himself in flesh. He came and dwelt among us, was crucified, resurrected and ascended into heaven creating a way that we could have eternal life. We give thanks for His love, mercy and grace. There is no sin that is too great and no place His grace and mercy cannot get to. There is always hope. We acknowledge and give thanks that God provides for us. He meets our needs of food, water, shelter and clothing. While we may not have everything we want, we are blessed with provision. Beyond meeting our needs, “He daily loads us with benefits,” as David says in Psalm 68. Many of our lives are filled with blessings and luxuries that makes life so much easier than many. We give thanks that God looks over us. As Jeremiah 29 says, “He knows the plans He has for us, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” While life is full of hardships and difficulties, we are blessed to have a God that knows our ways and goes through them with us. We look forward in expectation and thanks, knowing that if we obey His Word and trust His plan, we will share an eternal life with people of the ages, family and friends. Our future home is a land filled with mansions and streets of gold. It is a place filled with joy, happiness and worship. There is no more pain, sickness or death. No more sin and evil. It is where will meet Jesus again. Thank you, Jesus.
Three sunset maple trees. All bought at an end of the year clearance sale. I planted the two best trees in the strip between our sidewalk and street and the scrawnier tree in the side yard. This week, three years after planting them, and while enjoying the colors, I noticed two things about the trees. First, the two trees near the street had brilliant red leaves while the one planted in the side yard had more golden-brown leaves. Second, the two trees in the front were now smaller, their trunks not as thick and branches not as high. The tree that was once scrawny was now much taller and thick. What produced the difference? Soil and water. The trees planted in poorer soil had taken in less water. While their color was brilliant, the smaller overall growth was evidence that they were getting less water. The tree in the side yard, where the soil was richer and water more available, showed growth; its roots had grown deep and its branches higher. What is true of trees is true of Christians. Where we are planted and how much spiritual nutrition we take in, is important. Jesus talked about the importance of soil, of being in the right place spiritually, in His parable about seeds. Paul said where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, or growth. May I suggest that where we plant our life is important. Here are a few suggestions where to plant your life. In His Word. In His presence. In a place of prayer. In His House. Get planted in the right place and watch your life explode in growth and brilliant color.
There’s been a shift in what it means to be a Christian. Once being a Christian meant being Spiritual. It meant desiring to live godly and holy. It meant seeking after God, scouring the Bible, weeping as we learned more about Him and seeing how we had fell short. There was a desire in Spirit filled people to be led and controlled by His Spirit. Conviction would send us to prayer in tears. Today’s Christianity is filled with watered down feel-good intentions and warm fuzzy moments. It’s a verse posted on Instagram instead of devouring His Word in hunger to know Him. It’s a praying hands text, instead of hours of interceding for change in us or a situation. Most have no concept of the principle Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness? Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?” Today’s Christianity is a mixture of Christ and carnality. We exhibit our faith on Sundays but live by our feelings the rest of the week. In Acts there are many people we should emulate. Two in particular are Stephen and Cornelius. In Acts 6 we are introduced to Stephen. He’s a man full of faith; a man full of and controlled by the Spirit. In Acts 10 we discover Cornelius. He’s a devout man; a man of continual prayer, who idolized, honored and held sacred things that God valued. These men were not just Christians, they were Spiritual men. It’s a wonder that there is so much angst and rejection of Christianity. When Christianity is watered down it is worthless. As we end the Month of the Family, I challenge you to become more than a Christian. Dedicate to making your home and family more than passionless spectators. Let’s be Spiritual. People who are full of the Spirit, led by the Spirit and controlled by the Spirit.
I make no claim that pastors are perfect people. We mess up. Most pastors I know are genuine, faithful followers of God. They’ve learned that the work of pastoral ministry carries heartache with it. Here are some of the aches of a pastor’s heart:
- We mourn when marriages fall apart and grieve at the pain divorce causes.
- We hurt when young people make decisions that lead to future difficulty. We understand that too often we cannot stop them.
- We beat ourselves up when a sermon wasn’t nearly as effective as we thought it should have been. We’re usually are our own worst critics.
- We grieve the sin of others more than they do. We know we can’t bring people to repentance, and it’s agonizing watching them moving toward the world and ruin.
- We ache when we must deal with difficult issues and carry out church discipline.
- We struggle when the churches we lead aren’t growing spiritually or numerically. We genuinely care that people are lost.
- We hurt alone when we see the loneliness and struggles of our families.
- We grieve funerals for persons who showed no evidence of Christian conversion.
- We wrestle with loneliness that comes along with ministry.
- We feel guilty even expressing any of these thoughts.
Your pastor and their spouses are men and women who care deeply about your soul and eternal future. While they cannot be at every event or solve every issue in your life, they want what is best for your life and family. For most, pastoring is not a job, but a passion. Make it a priority to keep them in your prayers regularly.
* Edited article from Charles Lawless,
Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary
October, Month of the Family at Life. We kick things up a notch and fill the month with lots of activities and special services. Why? Because family is important to God. In fact, when we look in Genesis, one of the first things God did was create family; Adam and Eve. What makes for a successful family? Pretty simple, make His priorities the priorities of our families. What values should we make important this month? First, make the Word of God the foundation of our home. The Word of God is our instruction manual, road map and the final decision maker in all we do. Second, elevate prayer to an essential part of our family’s culture. Spend time as a family praying together; share your needs and success with one another and God. Make Community Prayer and Saturday at Seven a significant part of your routine. It is in these environments that our kids sense the power and value of prayer. Third, understanding the value of regular church attendance is critical. It is in His house where we learn to worship, experience faith, see miracles and grow in relationship with God. Finally, I encourage you to make spending time together an intentional action this month. We must make “together” one of our highest priorities. Personal devices, social media, gaming, and entertainment will mercilessly steal time from our spouses and families. Play games, ride bikes, take walks; be imaginative, but whatever we do, make creating memories a priority. Let’s make this year’s Month of the Family one that changes the culture and future of our lives.
For six days God created. After six amazing days of creativity, God takes a day off. He rests and reflects on His work. It seems that He enjoyed His day of rest so much that when He met Moses on Mt. Sinai with the 10 Commandments, He includes rest as one of the commands. The Sabbath, God’s blessing and gift to man, a day of rest. The concept was simple. Whatever your daily job was, take the day off, celebrate God’s goodness, relax and reflect. Years pass and the simple blessing becomes encumbered with rules. Don’t help a sick animal, don’t move furniture and don’t travel more than a mile, just a few of 39 extensions added to God’s original idea of rest. How tragic is it when men burden God’s blessings with rules? It steals away what was meant for our good. As a result, people walk away from God and the wonderful blessings He designed for us. The idea of a Sabbath is nearly forgotten. The principle and blessing is no longer celebrated or lived out. Instead our lives are over-taxed, filled with anxiety and stress and we have little time for our family and friends. The idea of resting, relaxing and reflecting rarely comes to the landscape of our mind. Instead we are constantly looking for something to bring us enjoyment and peace. I suggest that maybe it’s time to schedule a regular Sabbath. A day when we stop and chill. A day when we celebrate and worship God. A day when we take a nap, a walk or bike ride. A day when we enjoy a hobby or simply relax and celebrate what we have accomplished. Be intentional. Take back your Sabbath!
A life with a closed Bible is basically the same as a life with no Bible. When we live our lives without including the scripture as a daily part of our life, our lives run dangerously parallel to someone who doesn’t follow God at all. Calling ourselves a Christian, attending church weekly, yet living a life that doesn’t search out the scriptures is dangerous. When we read the Bible, it teaches us how we should live our lives, what pleases God and what actions bring His favor and blessings. The strength of the disciples and Apostle Paul was their knowledge of God’s Word. Christians without God’s Word as their compass live to please themselves and are more image conscious than God conscious. Christians that regularly live in the Word of God tend to be more peaceful, live humbly and are more focused on pleasing God than themselves. Christians that are Biblically focused live lives like John the Baptist who said, “I must decrease, and He must increase.” A Christ focus person understands that it is not drawing attention to themselves but reflecting Jesus that is important. Passionate Christians are like Paul who said, “that I may know Him.” They understand that becoming like Jesus is a life priority. The real danger in modern Christianity is not a lack of worship but a lack of the Word. Without Biblically centered lives and home, we become religious, empty and shallow. We have no ownership of beliefs, values or convictions and simply live to please our flesh. As a person who is trying to live as an authentic Christian, I challenge you to make your Bible a daily priority.