Archive for May, 2011

How Did You Make It?

May 30, 2011

This morning I was reminded of the great blessing I have had in being married, as of today, 19 years. During this time many wonderful things have happened.  We have been blessed with three wonderful children.  Our lives have been so rich with many people who God has brought into our lives as extended members of our family.

Sherry and I have ministered together in the gospel for these 19 years and as I look back I can say, the journey has been blessed.  Here are the words of Solomon, “Enjoy life with the wife you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you, under the sun, because this is your portion in life and in your toil which you toil under the sun,” Ecclesiastes 9:9. 

The blessing of serving our Lord with the same woman for 19 years is amazing.  As of today, I cannot imagine living life without my parter in ministry.  But as I reflect on those we have known over the years.  I am reminded that many of these people are no longer married.  Seldom do you meet people today who make it 19 years.

So I thought I would spend some time reflecting on how we have been able to make it 19 years.  First and foremost, it is by the grace of God.  His grace has been sufficient every step of the way.  I have never deserved even one moment of His grace, but He has showered me with His grace.  Secondly, It has been by His strength that we have weathered many storms in these 19 years.  God has sheltered us from attacks from the enemy.  God has straightened us when we have gotten off course.  God has supplied every need.  I can honestly say, “It is well because of Christ.”  Thirdly, It has been His strong teaching concerning mercy that has served us so well.  Yes there have been days when we have failed each other, but it was His mercy that taught us to forgive and to even fight for our marriage through tough times.  Finally, it has been His unconditional love that has kept us in love all of these years.  The more I experience Christ love, the more I realize how I am to love Sherry.  The more Sherry loves Christ, the more she loves me.

So when people ask us, “How did you make it 19 years?”  Our response is simply, “Only because of Christ.”  This is the key to every relationship, circumstance, and storm in your life.  So on this day when we celebrate freedom and those who have sacrificed for our freedom, I say, celebrate Christ.  In Christ alone do we find all we need.

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In Great Distress

May 27, 2011

Can you see it in the eyes of your friends and neighbors?  Can you hear it in the inferences in their voices?  Can you feel it in the sadness of the atmosphere of most conversations?  Can you sence it as you try to engage those around you with the gospel?   We live in a world that is in great distress.

Yesterday, I experienced all of these things I have just asked you about.  Several servants from our church joined together to offer food to those in great distress.  Over a four-hour period we provided food, financial, and spiritual assistance to thirty families.  Each of these families had varied needs, but almost all of them were in great distress.

This is not something new.  Since the fall of man, our world has been filled with great distress.  Consider the ministry of Elisha, II Kings 2-7.  The man of God daily was ministering to people who were in great distress.  One example is found in a woman whose son died suddenly.  “For the man of God said, for she is in great distress and the Lord has hidden from me and not told me her problem,” 4:27. 

In this moment I asked myself, “Why did He not know?”  For me it was clear that He did not need to know the particular’s of her distress. He just needed to be sensitive to her distress so that he would ask, why and how he could help.  This is exactly what happened.  The man of God, then goes with this woman and raises her son from the dead.

Certainly, you and I have no power to raise the dead.  But we do serve a God who was has given us the gospel, that has the power to raise the spiritually dead, Ephesians 2:1-4.  Yesterday, I was reminded of the following, “The gospel has the answer for every distress.”  Our team was able to minister the gospel to those battling cancer, dealing with abandonment, loss of loved ones, spiritual darkness, and extreme shame for being poor.

In each circumstance God brought light into a dark place.  This morning I want to plead with each who read today to consider those who are in great distress.  What has God called you to do?  Here is God’s answer:  1) Seek His face in order to keep a heart that is compassionate for those around you.  2)  Seek His wisdom for divine appointments.  3) Step out in faith.  Risk being hurt, heartbroken, and financially challenged for the sake of the Gospel.  4) Allow God to use you to sow the gospel.  5) Give Him glory for it all.

“Thank you Jesus for the honor of being able to serve such an awesome God.  I would not, nor could I ever had the peace I have today without your saving grace.  Thank you Jesus for coming to my rescue.  Where else could I go.  I will follow you.”  

So Much At Stake

May 26, 2011

This morning I arose with a sense of a great weight on my shoulders. I am sure many of you have many experiences with this same feeling.  As I read God’s word the weight continued and even in my prayer time the weight continued to grow.  Finally I found myself weeding through picture after picture of the devastation of tornado’s in our nation.

As I sit here in front of my computer the reality of what is happening in our world, gets to the very core of who we as believers are and to what we are to be about on this foreign soil called the world.  One particular picture stands out to me as a man stands in the doorway of the only wall left standing from his house.  The picture captures his reality as you can see the sorrow and helplessness in his disposition.

I can honestly say, I felt his sorrow.  All of this drove me back to the scriptures that I had just completed.  I Kings ends with Israel in a mess and II Kings begins with that same mess.  So very much was at stake.  I thought about the call of God upon the life of a young prophet, Elisha.  He was now going to be God’s mouth peace.  It is easy to see that He knew so much was at stake.  As his mentor prepared to leave this world, He asks, ” Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken away from you?”  At this moment, what was in this prophets heart comes out, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”  

In this moment when so much is at stake, the man of God asks for the strength to carry on the ministry.  I must confess, there is always much I ask God for every day in my quiet time.  But how seldom do I ask my Father with urgency for the strength to carry on the ministry.  I often am asking for myself or I am asking for someone I love.  But with so much at stake, every day, I must ask God for strength to carry on the ministry of the Gospel.

I wonder, “Do we really realize how much is at stake every day in our world?”  Every day, ‘multitudes are facing disaster called eternity and most of them, 4.6 billion will die with Christ.  God help us to see what is at stake and God help us to be about the business at hand of reaching the world with the precious Gospel.

“Dear Father, give us the strength to carry out your work in this world.  Give us understanding in where we are to work and how we are to work.  Lead us to the people you are giving saving grace and lead us to the people who are facing their last days.  Father help us to never look to ourselves or to live in ourself.  May all of this be for your glory today.”  

A Threat To Society

May 25, 2011

Certainly we are living in an age where so much unrest fills our national and world scene.  Recently the death of Osama Bin Laden has filled the headlines around the world.  However, still yet the violence and death in our society still continues.  As one commentary said: “Many are a threat to our society.”

Question, “Is it possible that people would consider you or I as a threat to our society?”  This question came to my mind as I read Elijah’s story of conflict with the King of Israel in I Kings 18.  Here is what the King of Israel says to Elijah, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”  How ironic that the man who was a threat to society is calling the man of God a threat to society.  Here was Elijah’s response, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your Father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandment of the Lord and followed the Baals,” I Kings 18:18.

In this debate we find ourselves faced with a question, “Who is really a threat to society?”  This same question comes into question when Paul is ministering in Thessalonica, Acts 17.  The leaders accuse Paul, “Of turning the world upside down.”  If you are a student of church history you know the blood of the church runs deep because of such accusations.  However the question remains, “Who is a threat to society?”

Here is God’s answer.  Humanity is a threat to itself.  We are on a self-destruct mode because of our sin nature.  We see this in the time of Noah when every thought of man’s heart was evil.  We see this in the book of Ephesus when Paul writes that every  person, lives under the sway of Satan.  We are identified as, “Sons of disobedience,” 2:2. 

The fact is God says, “It is humanity that is a threat to society.”  However, Jesus came so that a world that is upside down and destroying itself could be saved.  As Elijah stood against Ahab we see a picture of God’s power over those who are a threat to society.  The fact is Elijah was a light in a dark place.

Our Lord has called each follower to be that same light, Matthew 5:16.  Just as Elijah faced ridicule and persecution so will we.  But oh how much blessing we receive as we stand amazed how God is able to bring light to dark places.

Revelation 21:5 “Behold I make all things new.”  There will be a day when everyone will know that you are not a threat to society but a blessing.  So if you are feeling oppressed or if you are feeling your sacrifice is not making a difference, look to Elijah’s example and find encouragement to keep on being a threat to society in Jesus name.

When It All Comes Out

May 24, 2011

This morning I found myself walking through I Kings 14-16 in a who’s who of Kings in Israel and Judah.  Each passage ended with, “Now the rest of the acts of ____ and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.   As I read these chapters it was a somber reminder of Jesus words, “There is none righteous, no not one.” 

As I studied, one king stood out.  This King’s name was Ahab. Here is God’s commentary about his life, “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger, than all the kings of Israel who were before him,” 16:33.  As I read this commentary, I wrote in the margin of my bible, “A man who did more.”  However, quickly God reminded me of my own sin nature.  I was reminded that it way my sin that caused the death of Christ.  I was reminded that, even though I have been redeemed, there is still the old nature present within me that has shameful capabilities, Gal 5:16-19.

But above all I was reminded of the blood of Christ that has washed away my sins.  Because He has wiped away my sins, “It will never all come out how wicked I truly am.”  The words of the Psalmist are so dear to me, “As far away as the east is to the west, so far has he removed our sin from us,” Psalm 103:12.  

Today I walk in newness of life because of Christ.  Today I can live above the charges that my past cry out within my mind.  Paul wrote, “Who can lay a charge against God’s elect.  It is God who justifies,” Romans 8:34.  

When I look at Ahab’s life, I think, if not for the grace of God, there go I.  So on this day, if you are a follower of Christ, praise Him for His cleansing power in your life.  If you are not a follower of Christ, come to Jesus for the cleansing today.  If you have unconfessed sin, confess to Jesus today.  Get it all under the blood, so that you can once again walk in the newness of life you have been given by grace.

Why Did It Have To Turn Out Like This?

May 23, 2011

There have often been times when I have met with people who have shared horror stories of life circumstances that turned out in devastating ways.  Certainly you have read about, heard about, or even experienced circumstances that turned out in devastating ways.

This morning was no exception as I read about the last days in the life of King Solomon, I Kings 9-14.  As I read Solomon’s story I was amazed at the blessings of God in his life. Here is what the queen of Sheba said while meeting with Solomon, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel,” 10:9.  The word delight speaks about God’s wealth of love given to a underserving person.  I can truly say, “All who know Christ have experienced His delight in their lives.”

As I read those words, I wrote the following in the margin of my bible, “Do we really know how blessed we are?”  I don’t think Solomon did, even though he had great wisdom.  Solomon had it all, “He even drank from gold drinking vessels.” But all of this delight from God, did not keep Solomon from turning his attention away from the God who delighted in Him.

As I turned the page to I Kings 11, I was in shock, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women,” 11:1.  Here we see a wise man making an unwise turn in his later years.  Solomon who at one time delighted in the God who delighted in him was now delighting in other things.  These things caused Solomon and his descendants to lose God’s delight.

Things turned out horribly for his family.  Their future was filled with corruption, failure, and ruin.  I wonder, did any of Solomon’s descendants ask, “why did it have to turn out like this?”  Certainly one descendant, Josiah, asked and when he discovered the reason, he repented and led the nation of Israel to revival.

Question, “How are things turning out in your family?”  Is your life a delight or is it very destructive this day?  In either case I encourage you to seek the reason for why you are where you are this day.  If it is a delight, praise our God and delight yourself in Him even more this day.  If it is not, plead with God to discover the why.  If you are not delighting in the Lord, begin today.  If you are, keep on delighting because the scriptures promise, “If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.”  

I must confess to you that I am delighting in the Lord this day.  Does this mean, everything is delightful today?  The answer is an absolute no, but I know this is not the end.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to a word of darkness and taught us love, mercy, and forgiveness.  He showed us our sin and the condemnation because of our sin.  He then showed us His delight in us by going to the cross.  The Father showed us delight in raising Him from the dead.  This delight continued in Christ returning to heaven to prepared a place for those He delights in.  Someday He will delight in calling us home.  Oh what a day that will be.

Why Did We Lose?

May 20, 2011

Over the years I have been blessed to watch many thrilling games that went down to the wire.  Last night, I had this blessing as I watched the Bullet East girls play the number one ranked team in softball.  The game went into extra innings and after much effort the girls went down one to zero.  It was easy to see that the girls were let down, but I was pleasantly surprised that they did not place blame and once it was over it was over.

However, for most people who lose a big game or far more important, someone who fails, there is always the question of why.  This morning I was reminded of the why as I read God’s record of Solomon’s prayer as he dedicated the house of the Lord, I Kings 8:22-61.  Here is a small exert, “When your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and if they turn again to pray and plead with you in this house.  Then hear in Israel and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them again to the land that you gave to their fathers.”

Notice the progression of Solomon’s thought process; “When Israel looses to an enemy, one can clearly see that Israel’s loss was not be because her enemy was greater.  She would lose because God removed His blessing because of her sin.”  This struck deep into my heart as I thought about the times in my life when I have become a loser. Many times I have blamed others, circumstances, and inability as the cause of my failure.  But here Solomon reminds us that losing is a result of our sin against God.

By the way, this is not something that humanity was taught in Solomon’s day.  Since the days of Adam we have known, “Obedience leads to victory and disobedience leads to failure.”  Adam was given one assignment, “be obedient to me in everything.  Adam blew it.”  Solomon had to be obedient in one thing, “Do not turn aside from following me,” 9:4. But Solomon failed here and God’s people paid the price.

As one reads this, his or her mind could possibly reason, “If these people could not win, then how can I win?”  The answer is, “As we walk in Christ we are guaranteed the victory.”  So here is the takeaway for the weekend:

1) If you are losing, ask yourself, “In what area have I failed to obey God.”

2) If you are losing, repent of what you have failed to obey in.

3)  Ask God to once again restore His hand of favor to you.

4) Praise Him for His favor.

5) Daily strive to walk in obedience simply because you love Him.

Look What I Did

May 19, 2011

“And whatever my eyes desires I did not keep from them.  I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was the reward for all my toil,” Ecclesiastes 2:10.

Can you imagine being able to do anything you wanted to do?  This is exactly how Solomon was able to live his life.  In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon gives himself to all the pleasure of the world, all the work of the word, and all the wisdom of the world.  The list of his accomplishments are so amazing that all one can say is simply, “Man you are amazing.”

However , from Solomon’s perspective we gain a different viewpoint.  A casual look at the chapter would cause a person to think that Solomon was saying, “look what I did.”  But this is not case at all. Solomon simply lists his accomplishments to show us how all these things at the end of the day have little lasting value.

Here is his conclusion, “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had experienced in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”  Wow, did you see what Solomon said, “There is nothing to be gained in what we do.”

A couple of years ago, my best friend gave me a book entitled, “It all goes back in the box.” The book was an allegory about life.  The author used the illustration of trying for years to beat his grandmother in Monopoly. Finally after many tries, he won.  But his joy was short-lived because after the game, they placed everything back in the box.  It was over.

Brothers and sisters, there is coming a day when each of us will be placed in some type of box.  People who give and overview of our lives.  When they do, it will simply be a testimony of what we did.  Oh, how I hope I have more significant things said than what Solomon wrote about his life.

Maybe you ask, “What should we be striving for?”  The bible teaches us that we should be striving for the glory of the Lord.  Jesus in Luke 8 speaks clearly to this subject when He says; “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away,” 8:18. 

We must be careful to obey His commands instead of our old nature’s commands.  When we obey God’s commands we will be given more and more understanding in His will and we will be given more and more joy because we are being used as His hands and feet to accomplish things of eternal value.

So, as you approach this day, or as you end this day, listen to God and discover what He wants you to do. This alone brings value as we see what He does through our lives.

What Do You Want?

May 18, 2011

Yesterday, I had a few hours to spend with my youngest son before traveling to speak at revival services.  As we sat talking John came up with a wonderful (In his mind) ideal.  He said, “Daddy, would you please take up a love offering for your son tonight?”  I asked, “Why?”  John responded, “Tell the people, your son has no way of transportation, and he needs a bike to be able to get around.”  Oh the wit and wisdom of a little boy.

This morning, I found myself focusing on the subject of wisdom as I read the first five chapters of I Kings and the first chapter of Ecclesiastes.  In I Kings 3 Solomon has a dream and in the dream the Lord says: “Ask what I shall give you,” Vs:6.  God was asking Solomon, “What do you want?”  Amazingly Solomon does not ask for what most kings ask for, such as long life, wealth, or victory over his enemies.  Solomon truly ask’s for what is truly valuable in a believer’s life.  The wisdom of God is better than the riches of men.

Question, “What do you want?”  Truly, what do you find yourself asking God for on a daily basis?  Solomon wrote the following, “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing,” Ecclesiastes 1:8. I am convinced that most of us ask God for things as well as for deliverance from trials.

I am also convinced that the better things to ask God for are such things as wisdom to trust in His provision as well as wisdom to know what He is teaching us in our trials.  Maybe this very day you are crying out to God and He is asking in response, “What do you want?”  Our reply should be the same as Solomon’s: “Give your servant and understanding mind.”

Solomon was only around twenty years old at this time.  He was inexperienced and He was overwhelmed with the task before him.  But one thing was certain, he knew what to ask for.  God was pleased with his request and in giving him wisdom, God blessed Solomon to be able to gain wealth, victory over his enemies, and long life if he would remain faithful to God.

All of this reminds me of the words of our Lord and Savior, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matthew 6:33.  May the truth of what we have read today, become such conviction in your life that daily you pray, “Father, grant you servant understanding in all things.”

What Would You Do?

May 17, 2011

This week I have been blessed to lead revival meetings for a church in the city of Shepherdsville.  The theme of the revival is the mercy of God.  This morning, I found myself faced with an issue that brought to light how seldom I truly apply God’s directive when it comes to mercy.

The situation is one that is well documented.  It is the continuing saga of the former governor of California and his marriage problems with his wife of 25 years.  Last week the couple announced legal separation.  This left the world to wonder why.  This mornings headlines shared one of the why’s, “The Governor had birthed a child by one of the workers in his home twelve years earlier.”  As I read this, I must confess that I struggled with mercy.

Now, I know that I do not know these people, nor probably ever will, but I have been praying for them.  However, it was more difficult for me to pray for Arnold this morning. Maybe you are facing the same struggle is some area of your life?  If so, I encourage you to simply submit to doing things God’s way and not your own.  What is God’s way?

We find and illustration of this in the life of King David.  In chapter 24 of II Samuel, David makes a serious error in attempting to take a census of his people.  The glory of Israel was not in David, but it was God Himself.  Trouble arrises and David is given choices in how God would deal with his sin.  Notice David’s response, “I am in great distress.  Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let us not fall into the hand of man,” 24:14.

Wow, David knew that he could not trust himself with mercy and he knew that he could not trust others to carry out mercy.  Mercy is totally a God thing!!!   I want you to go back and read the last sentence again.

Brothers and sisters, the key to having mercy is to be filled with Christ.  He alone is a God of mercy and He alone can give us the power to see others through His eyes.  Consider the facts: 1) All of humanity deserves the wrath of God.  2) All of humanity is sinful  3) All of humanity seeks not the benefit of others but self.  4) All of humanity does not seek God.

These facts recorded in Romans 3:10-12 help us to understand why we so struggle with mercy.  It is not in us.  But consider the facts:  1) God sent his Son to take God’s wrath. 2) God was sinless and through Him we sin less and less.  3) God’s Son came to bless us and He gives us the ability to bless others.  4) God’s Son perfectly followed the Father and grants us the ability to obey God.

These facts recorded in all the gospels is summed up in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Only in Christ can we do the right thing every time.

So, I can honestly say, I am praying for mercy in the life of the former governor.  I would not, nor could I do this without His mercy filling my life.  Oh how I pray you and I do the right thing in all our relationships!!!