Monday, December 20, 2010

Slaves to the Son

"Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God," Romans 1:1 (Emphasis mine)

Every man who is worth his salt will struggle every day. The things that we struggle with will vary depending on who we are, but make no mistake, we all struggle. This is also the case with the person who's story I want to share with you. Though I don't know their name, it's their story that matters.

The person I want to introduce you to grew up around 2,400 years ago, living in a cave with others. This slave, like the others living in the cave, was chained to the floor of the cave, forced to face a wall, with a fire burning behind him. They were forced to stay in this position for their entire lives, only doing their master's will. The cave was ruled by the darkness, and the darkness only. This began to play on the psyche of this slave. He always felt there must be so much more to life than being tied down to this cold, dark cave that kept them from feeling any joy. He decided that if there was any chance to escape from this dark cave, he would take it. Realizing that there had to be so much more, he grew determined to escape the hopeless life that existed for him as a slave to the darkness.

So he began watching the slave masters, always observing their habits. Looking for a weakness that he could use. As he was planning in his mind, his arms began twisting and grinding on the shackles that were holding his wrists together. He had been made free of the bonds that kept him a slave. Now, with the chains broken, he left he cave as a free man.

The slave left the cave and hoped for something beautiful. He hoped for something he had never seen before as he began walking toward the front of the cave. As he came out of the cave, he stepped out a ways and stopped. The glory of the sun overwhelmed him! The slave knew that in his heart, the other cave dwellers needed to know about the glory of the sun, and he was determined to share the good news with them.

However, as he arrived and began teaching about the sun and all it's glory, the other cave dwellers could not see past their own misery to believe in such a thing. They immediately rejected the slave's message as too good to be true. They were so used to only being able to see the light by looking behind them, that they were unable to see the hope that lied directly in front of them.

You and I are, in a figurative sense, this former slave. We were once in bondage to darkness, with no hopes of ever being released. However, due to God's grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are released from our cave. While this slave found his glory in the sun, we find our glory in God's Son. When this slave found comfort in the warmth of the celestial sun, we find our comfort in the Heavenly Son. When we are released, we find The Son and all it's beautiful light which brightens up our world. We see the world through this light and decide that this is where we want to spend the rest of our life.

No, though I don't know his name, I can see his face. That's because the face of the freed slave has the face of you or me. Though this story was written over 2,400 years ago by Plato in his "Allegory of the Cave", it still rings true through you and I today.

Just like the slave did, I hope that we will all be willing to return back to the cave, not to stay, but rather to pull those still living there into the glory of the Heavenly Son.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Today You... Tomorrow Me"

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27
First, let me apologize for my lack in postings as of late. A multitude of things have kept me away. However, I wanted to share this story with you. It moved me and made me rock back on my heels and truly examine myself.
The story I'm about to share with you is a true story, and I tell it as it was told to me. It begins with a young man who was making his way back home on the interstate in a Jeep he didn't own when he blew a tire. He thought to himself that this is no big deal, he would just change the tire and be on his way. However, his friend didn't have a jack big enough to fit the Jeep, leaving him stranded on the side of the road. With no other options, he had to rely on his fellow travelers to come to his rescue.
So the young man made a sign and put it in the window of the broke down Jeep stating that he needed a jack, and even offered to pay any passerby who happened to stop. None did. Though many people passed by him, and could see he was in desperate need, none could be bothered to stop and offer him any assistance. Even a few tow trucks came by and didn't bother to check on him. The feeling of hopelessness was beginning to grow As the fourth hour of being stranded rolled around, the man was growing hungry, and knew he was going to have to make the dangerous decision to hitch hike his way out of there.
Just as he was about to give up all hope, a white van pulled up.
From the white van, a man traveling with his entire family hops out and walks over. The man doesn't say a word to the stranded traveler, but instead inspects the situation with the tire. He looks at the sign in the window, but makes no gesture of understanding. Speaking spanish, the man calls his young daughter from the van. She speaks English and she tells the traveler that they are immigrants from Mexico working in the local produce fields, and that her father doesn't speak English. As she is speaking with the young man she asks if he has eaten anything, and offers him a tamale from their cooler. As she is feeding the stranded traveler, he looks over and notices that the father has cut a log from a downed tree on the side of the road to make the jack fit. The young man rushes over to assist, jacks the Jeep up, and begins taking the lug nuts off of the wheel when he snaps the father's tire iron. The father doesn't blink an eye, and instead sends his wife off in the van to fetch another tire iron. She quickly returns with another one, and finally the tire is changed.
As the father is cleaning up, the no longer stranded traveler gets $20 from his wallet to pay the father, but he refuses to accept. The traveler then tries to quietly slip it to the mother, and she takes it. A few moments pass and the father and daughter are loaded back into their van. They give the traveler a tamale but refuse payment, and he thanks them again. As he is walking back to his now repaired Jeep, he unwraps the tin foil around the tamale to find nothing else than the $20 he gave the mother. He rushes back to the drivers side of the van to give it back to the father who had been more than gracious to him when the father just shakes his head and smiles. Using great concentration and searching for the words, the father says the simple yet powerful words, "Today you... tomorrow me." With that, he rolled his window up and drove away, leaving the young man with a repaired Jeep, a full stomach and his $20.
It's interesting to me to think that it was a stranger, whom this young traveler considered poorer and less fortunate than him, who made such an impact in his life. The traveler, in telling this story, said that he has not been the same since. When he sees someone broke down, no matter how busy he is, he stops and does whatever it is he can to help them get back on the road.
I wanted to share this story with you because it is the very essence of what we, as Christians are supposed to be on a daily basis (Lk 9:23). However, all too often we find ourselves too busy to notice those around us who may be spiritually stranded. This story should ring close to home because after all, we are all migrant workers in this world ourselves (Mk 16:15,16). However, rather than picking peaches and cherries, our fields of harvest are souls (John 4:35).
Have we been worrying so much about our own spiritual journey that we've failed to see those broke down on the side of the road, crying out for help? Are we moving so fast that we can't read the signs? If so, let us remember our Christian duty to bring others out of hopelessness, and onto their own spiritual journeys with God (Mk 1:17). After all, we know that the road of a Christian is not one paved in gold (Acts 14:22). Rather it is full of pot holes, lost souls, and flat tires. You never know when you yourself may be in need of assistance again. So slow down long enough to remember, "Today you...tomorrow me."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Play A Happy Note

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

I want to tell you the story of Derek Paravicini. Derek is a 31 year old who lives in Surrey, England. To read Derek's condition in a medical chart, would leave a very grim impression indeed. You see, Derek is blind, mentally handicapped to the point of barely being able to count to ten, and cannot discern his left from his right due to an extreme learning disability. Indeed, the odds were stacked against him when he was born premature at only 25 weeks, weighing only 1 1/2 pounds. But this isn't the end of Derek's troubles. He also suffers from autism. That is just what you will read in the medical charts. If you were to meet Derek in person you would discover a completely different person.

Despite suffering from autism, blindness, and a severe mental handicap drastically impairing his learning, Derek is one of only 19 people alive in the world today who is considered a musical savant. This means that Derek has the unexplainable ability to relate and play music in ways that no other person can. Derek is capable of hearing a song once, regardless of it's difficulty level, and recite it back to you in near perfection. He is even capable of categorizing the notes of a train engine as it accelerates. He virtually sees music. Once he hears a song, he never forgets it. It is believed he has over 1 million songs stored in his brain. Rather than divide his brain power into many different tasks, the majority of his thinking is used exclusively for music. While I found this impressive, it is not what I found most impressive about Derek's story. It was his personality.

I was watching a man who appeared to suffer greatly from many different physical and mental handicaps yet his personality and upbeat spirit would never let on. He has this way of speaking to people, and using his voice too. He loved to play for people, and would even take requests. Regardless of how obscure the song chances are Derek would play it for you with enthusiasm. Derek has such a positive energy about him that people cannot help but smile and feel good when they are around him. They tend forget his disabilities because he makes such good use of his infectious personality.

But the world is not full of "Derek's", is it? Unfortunately, we seem to find ourselves surrounded (usually at work) by the one person we could only describe as 'The World's Most Negative Person'. This person is superhuman, because even though there can only be one 'Worlds Worst', they seem to hold a position in every office across America. They're nasty to their coworkers, they always complain, and even cut coworkers down in front of others. They hate their job, and the work load that comes with it and are bound to make you feel the same. After all, misery loves company, right? This person is decidedly not a Derek Paravicini. However, you can be.

We all have an energy source flowing through us, and it only comes in two forms; positive and negative. More often than not we accept the negative energy into our lives with more ease than we do the positive. In other words, we are affected by negative circumstances with more ease and let it affect us to a greater extent. Think about it, have you ever been so nervous about something going on in your life that you're unable to sleep at night? Instead of sleeping you are up out of bed, pacing the floors or nervous cleaning? This is the classic example of nervous or negative energy taking control.

Perhaps you were in a really good mood until someone else who was in a bad mood comes around? Have you ever noticed how fast this can change your minset? You go from feeling happy and upbeat to falling into a slump, and you don't know why. That is because the transformation of positive energy into negative. But how can you get rid of it? The First Law of Thermodynamics says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed. It is all about our mindset on how we choose to see and react to these situations. If we choose to react with pessimism, then we will reap a harvest of suffering. If we choose to see the world with optimism, then we will receive blessings from it in return. Negativity is going to happen, we cannot stop it. What we can do is control how we respond to it. This is the refusal of allowing negativity to control our lives, instead turning to positivity, which is a basis in our christian living (Phil. 4:8).

When someone is being negative, simply refuse to accept it and guard your positivity like it were a treasure. That is because it is. If you try to spread a positive attitude onto others, they will eventually catch it like a cold. It starts with only one person and spreads like wildfire. This is a great way to minister to people because it leaves them wondering about you. If you do it right, after they finish wondering about you, they will be left with one conclusion- God. It is a part of letting our lights so shine.

So the next time things begin to feel overwhelming, just remember that you still have your sight, and you are not handicapped, and just play that negativity a tune until things lighten up. Might I recommend Philippians 4:8, or perhaps James Chapter 1 in C-Sharp?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thess. 5:18
With less than an hour left in the Thanksgiving season, I have found a nice quiet place in the house that, only a few hours ago, was alive with family and friends. As I sit here, I reflect on the people my wife, Jennifer, and I were lucky enough to celebrate with. My wife and I were invited to spend Thanksgiving Day with our close friends, the Rodgers’, and their family. We were all too happy to accept.
As the day rolled on, I had the opportunity to watch many different age groups. From young children to grandparents, we had every age group and the adjoining life phases covered. Being able to see this today made me think, isn't it amazing how God designed life?
Take a moment and look back on your life. For those of us who have been through a few of life's steps can agree, you don't have much of a chance to get complacent in one before you are moving into the next; and it happens so naturally! From the time you're born as an infant, to the time you pass, you never stop learning and experiencing. Regardless of the way, we all continue to learn, all throughout life. This gives us the chance to never be bored with our lives.
The infant comes into the world with eyes that watch and observe everything. The child grows up to have children of their own, introducing them to a new aspect on how to interact as the parent now, filling a role that is again completely new to them.
In a mere 33 years, Jesus experienced all of this in his own life. He himself was born as an infant, learning lessons, and eventually becoming the savior of the world (John 3:16). Again, we have yet another example of God's amazing design simply by observing our very own life phases!
Looking back this Thanksgiving season, not only am I thankful for my life's many blessings (of which all come from God), I'm also thankful to Him for the many phases of life, the lessons that come with them, and the promise to never be bored in them.
The next time you become bored in life, just remember that it is only for such a short period of time. Try not to live in the past, because it has already past. Do not worry about the future; there are lessons to learn today. When you find yourself bored or overwhelmed, simply slow down and thank God for the phase you are in today. You will soon find yourself in the next phase, ready or not.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:2-5

In these articles we do a lot of talking about outlasting the bad times in life, and keeping the faith through the troubling times. However, something that we have not done yet is to try to answer the question, 'why do the bad things happen to good people in the first place?' This is an honest question and one that needs answering. However, in order to answer this question adequately, we need to clear a few things up.

First, we must understand that the idea of a 'good person' is purely relative. What I mean by that is that while we may consider someone a 'good person', our standards are way below those of God's. In the eyes of society, if you do not harm another person, you take care of your family, you try to do good deeds for others, these all make you a good person by our standards. However, Romans 3:23 tells us, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." This one passage says a lot about the goodness of man. It is important to remember that at the end of the day, it is not our standards that matter, but those of God.

Second, we have to understand that God gave the gift of Free Will to every person. God will not suspend someone's free will in order to stop bad things from happening. This means that God will not interject and stop someone from exercising their free will to live the life they choose. If they choose to live a life of sin and hurting others, then that is their choice. Just as God will not stop a person from serving Him, He will not stop those who want to live a life separated from Him. Their reward will come on the day of judgment, not here on Earth.

Third, we have to be mindful that God is not a respecter of persons. We have to consider this when we ask this question because it goes back to the fact that all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If God intercedes and stops something bad from happening to one person, would he not have to do it for all? Where would we draw the line between someone who deserves God's intercession, and someone who does not? Joe Smith deserves it because he is the president of the Rotary Club, and they do a lot of good work. Mary deserves God's protection because she's chairman of the bake sale charity, but Jenna doesn't, because she is just a regular member. Who is deserving and who is not? Where do we draw the line?

Sometimes people may ask why God sends a natural disaster such as a hurricane to destroy an entire city, like we saw in Hurricane Katrina. When we ask questions like this, we make a dangerous assumption that a loving God would choose to inflict pain and suffering in order to punish people, rather than stay true to His word that said that man's reward would come on the day of judgment. Regardless of how wicked we may think a society is, this goes back to God not interceding in a person, city, or nation's free will to live as they choose. While it is a tragedy that things like this happens, we can no more blame it on God than we can blame it on ourselves.

Even though bad things may happen in life, we know that if we choose to stay faithful to God, He will see us through the difficult times. Psalm 55:22 "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (KJV) He has given us a promise that He will carry our burdens for us, but we first have to be willing to let go of our troubles. This can be the hardest part of all of us, but it takes faith in His word, and the promise He made to us that He will deliver us.

When bad things happen in life, do not turn to God asking "why?" Rather, turn to Him and ask, "how?" How can I survive this tragedy and still stay near you? The answer of coarse is to give the hurt and pain it causes over to Him. James chapter 1:2-5 gives us the answer, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

People Are Strange

"John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan." Mark 1:4-9

Nothing private in nature ever happens in a small town. Those of you who have lived in a small town know exactly what I am saying. Regardless of whether you associate with someone, in a small town, you know all about their business, and unfortunately, they know yours. Growing up in a small town, I can say definitively that this is because of the lack of other entertainment available. You look for things outside of the 'norm' to entertain you and keep you occupied. This is no different from 2000 years ago.

John the Baptizer was quite the character. No doubt that his choice of style got people's attention. I can hear the people about town whispering, "Camel skins for clothes?! Does he not know that camels are meant for transportation, not for clothes?!" Also, how about a diet made mainly of locusts and honey? However odd this diet seems, it made sense to a man who hardly knew where his next meal was going to come from. Locusts are approximately 60% pure protein, compared to beef and chicken which is only 20%.

No doubt people took notice of John the Baptizer when he came through preaching, paving the way for Jesus. So when Jesus was being baptized by John the Baptizer, people no doubt took notice of that too. I am sure the river banks of the Jordan were lined with people. This makes sense, since God spoke and told everyone, "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Father was not speaking to Himself, here.

However odd we may find John the Baptizer to be, John made it work for him. John made his business God's business. Nothing else mattered but God's work. So John was a little different, he made it work to his advantage.

Are you making your business God's business? Are your priorities lined up with God's? Let the outside world think what they'd like, get involved in God's business.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Don't Be So Angry!

"Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm." Psalm 37:8

"A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

Did you know that the word 'Anger' originated from the extinct word 'Angust' which literally means 'to anguish'?

Have you ever been so upset at something, or perhaps even worse, someone that you could not hold back anymore and just blew up, saying something you wish you could take back? Unfortunately, I think it is safe to say that at one point in our lives, we all have. Someone wise once said, "Speak when you are angry, and you'll give the best speech you'll ever regret." Some of us have a lifetime of regrets weighing us down.

Anger comes in many different forms and wears many different masks. We can experience it in an obvious, overt manner such as rage, or perhaps belligerence. While this is the most common form of anger associated with this particular emotion, it is by far not the only form. We can also experience it in less obvious ways, such as hurt, anxiety, or sadness. Regardless of the mask it wears it is essentially the same thing-hurt, or anguish.

If we can learn to control our hurt or 'anguish' when dealing with upsetting circumstances, if we can learn to remove ourselves emotionally from upsetting events, then we can learn to control our anger. Psalm 37:8 deals with this directly in telling us not to fret, that it only causes harm. If we do not allow ourselves to fret, then we will better manage our tongue, not living with the guilt of angry words. Winston Churchill once said, "A man is about as big as the things that make him angry."

What are we letting get us angry? What is so big that it affects our lives so much that it causes us such deep anguish? Are we allowing other people to put this hurt in our lives? When we do allow them to do that, we give them power over our lives.

Instead, live a righteous life. Live a Godly life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don't Smother Yourself!

"For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[a]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them."
Psalms 139:13-16

God did not create you to live a life of mediocrity. In fact, it is quite the opposite. He gave you a personality and knew it intimately before you were even born. God wants to see you use your personality, talent and skills in a combined effort that utilizes all three to shine as an example of righteousness to those around you. After all, when we're standing at the judgement day (and there will be one), wouldn't it be so much better to be able to do so fully knowing you did His will to the best of your abilities? To be able to say you left everything on the table as you exit this world would be so comforting.

God put value into your life for a purpose, but it's only you keeping it from being used. The value God put in you can never diminish, it can only be stifled and smothered by only you.

Satan wants you to wallow in misery with him, but God has other plans. The decision is yours.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Take Up Your Cross

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

Your heart pounds, yet you stand breathless as you stare at it's daunting image. You run your hands across it's length. You touch the grain of the wood as it slides past the tips of your fingers. You notice how solid it feels. You feel the nails, noticing how cold they are. They seem so unforgiving. Suddenly you realize no one else is there to carry this cross for you, it is yours alone to bear. You wrap your arms around it and lift. It presses hard into your shoulders, but you manage your first step. Though the burden is great, the path has been made. You are walking in Christ's footsteps now.

The idea is not that we are doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, janitors or salesment who just so happen to be christians. We are christians first who also just so happen to be doctors, lawyers, teachers or salesmen second.

Let's make our first step every morning be in the footsteps of Christ, as Christians first, taking up our cross daily to follow Him.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Take a Step Back

"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed." Mark 1:35

I love this verse. It seems so simple on the surface, but once you look further into its context it tells us so much. Jesus had been up all night, surrounded by a demanding crowd of people looking for miracles. The account recorded in Mark chapter one tells us that the entire town surrounded the house Christ was staying in. The town's people were looking for a whole host of miracles, from physical cures to spiritual ones. While providing for people's physical and emotional repairs, Christ himself recognized that he needed a cure himself. However, rather than perform a "miracle" to cure himself, Jesus knew exactly what he needed to to;


Christ knew he had to take a step back from the world (i.e., the crowd gathered around him) and recharge his batteries in order to ensure the continuation of his ministry. He knew that if he were to continue being able to serve the afflicted, he would have to leave them temporarily to regain his strength. Christ did not leave to take a nap, sleeping his problems away. Nor did he get angry and drive the crowds away. No, instead he went to a quiet place, prayed, and gained strength from the Father. Christ set the example on how we should react to hardships. We do not ensure our survival by leaning upon ourselves. Instead, we pray to God for strength.

Everyone hits rock bottom. The difference between those with God's grace, and those lost to the world is the way you land when you reach that bottom, and how far down you are willing to go. Do you fall so far that you hit so hard that it knocks all sense of purpose out of you? Or do you recognize the downward slope and take corrective action landing with grace, never losing hope? We can't keep the bottom from coming, it's going to happen eventually. The difference is the depths we're willing to go to before we decide to land.

When the world is banging at our door, let us take a step back and let God answer it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

He Is Everywhere

"7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You."
Psalm 139:7-12

Recently when asked if I could step up and teach the teen class on Wednesday nights at church, I jumped at the opportunity to do so. Though I am married to a teacher, that did not mean I was capable of teaching myself. I had never taught before, and especially not something so serious as a Bible class.

I had several thoughts going through my mind. First, I was asking myself if I was capable of teaching a class. All people have talents, but not all are blessed with the gift of being able to teach. I could not answer for myself if I was able to until I actually did it. Second, I wondered what would I teach? Realizing that I would only have a few months to make a lasting impression on these teens, I knew I had to pick a subject that would do the most good in building their faith. I was comfortable knowing that they were getting a strong Bible education from other functions in worship, so this allowed me to teach something I love and put a lot of faith in- Apologetics.

Apologetics is the study of science that concerns itself with proving God's existence. I felt that this was the right subject to teach because our kids are getting enough misinformation on why God does not exist, that it was time to speak up. Now, I was the first to admit that I am not a scientist, but that was not going to stop me from doing my best. I knew that I did not have to be a scientist to teach God's influence- it was already visible everywhere. So there I was, a guy who had never taught before, who was not a scientist, and who had decided to pick the difficult topic of proving God's existence to a group of teens. I was not sure who had it worse off, the teens or me, so I prayed for both of us!

Famous atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked, "What would you say to God on the day of judgement if you find out He really does exist?" Mr. Russell responded by saying, "Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?" This got me to thinking, was Mr. Russell blind? God's evidence is everywhere. Need proof? Let's take a look at how modern science has caught up with and confirmed Biblical facts;

1) David in Psalms 8:8 alludes to "whatsoever passes through the paths of the sea." It wasn't until 1860 that Matthew Fontaine Maury, a pioneer oceanographer confirmed that there were indeed paths, or currents in the oceans.

2)Isaiah 40:23 states that the Earth was a sphere, "circle of the Earth". This is thousands of years before Columbus sailed for the new world, believing still that the Earth was flat!

3) Job 26:7 said that the Earth hangs on nothing, it is free floating "He suspends the Earth on nothing." Science in those days believed the Earth sat on the back of a large animal. It was not until thousands of years later that we discovered it hung, literally from nothing.

4)Samuel 22:16, Jonah 2:6 says that the bottom of the oceans contained deep valleys and trenches in the floors, "The valleys of the sea were exposed.." We have just recently within the last century gained the technology capable of confirming this claim by viewing the ocean floors!

5) Job 38:16 tells us that the oceans are fed by fresh water springs in the floors, "Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?" Again, we have just recently gained the technology to confirm this.

6) Jeremiah 33:22 says that there is an incalcuble number of stars, "..minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky.." Today, scientists are still trying to count them, and admit there is an infinite number.

I think we would all agree that there is no way for mere men to know these facts as they were recorded thousands of years before they were discovered by science. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg! Would you like to discuss some more?

7) The Earth sits at the perfect distance from the Sun in order to sustain life. If it sat 1/8 of an inch closer, the Earth would be scorched. However, if it were just 1/9 of an inch further away from the Sun, we would freeze to death.

8) Even the Earth's tilt on it's axis is perfect for life. Earth sits at a 23.5 degree angle which is perfect for regulating our summers and winters. This keeps us from being one giant desert due to extended summers, or one giant ice chunk because of extended winters.

9) 70% of our atmospheric oxygen comes from phytoplankton in our oceans. Everyone knows of course that our tides are regulated by the Earth's moon. However, did you know that if the moon was any closer to Earth it would create tidal waves so big it would crush all life? Any further away and the lack of tides would cause the oceans to go stagnant killing all phytoplankton, and oxygen production along with them.

Can God be muted? Can He be silenced by man? In order to deny God, it is not enough for man to just close their hearts to Him, we would also have to close our eyes to the world around us. God's signature is everywhere, and in all things. An atheist would have a better chance of silencing a hurricane than he would at silencing God.

Let us open our eyes and hearts daily to discover God's glory that is written all around us. Take a few minutes each day to read a book on apologetics and find out why you have the faith that you do. I believe this is a part of the command we are given in 1 Peter 3:15. When we do this, will not only be convinced, but be convicted in our belief in Him.

Are you convicted? Have you lived long enough with your eyes and heart closed? Are you ready to open them and stand amazed in the glory of the all powerful God? All you have to is look around you, He is there.

Send A Note!

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

It is a once in a lifetime story. It was 1944 in the height of WWII when 23 year old Army Air Force Transportation Sergeant Jay Robideaux was pulled from his regular job and ordered to join the air crew of 19 year old Gene Browning on a major bombing mission deep inside Nazi Germany. Though Jay was not a trained tail gunner, both men thought the job would be easy considering the size of the force they were flying with. Over 100 bombers took off together on that mission that day.

"As far as you could see ahead was our airplanes and the planes coming back were our bombers," recalled Gene.

Hope was high that they would return safely. That was until they saw the swarm of over 300 German fighter planes swarming the attack. During that battle Jay was critically injured by shrapnel to the back of his neck, though it did not penetrate because of the flak helmet he was wearing. It just so happened that, being a transportation sergeant, Jay was not issued a flak helmet. The one he was wearing was given to him by Gene as they loaded into the plane. Gene had saved his life by giving him that helmet, but it would not be the only time that would happen that day.

Jay continued to fight for another hour and a half, shooting out the rear of the plane in order to keep his crew alive. However, he would not have made it through the fight if Gene had not crawled back to him, and applied bandages to his neck.

"I remember they helped me and put a bandage on me and tried to stop the bleeding. But who they were I couldn't tell you," said Jay.

Gene and Jay never saw each other again after that. Until a few months ago, Gene, who lives an hour outside of Atlanta, tracked down Jay through email. Gene said he was so happy to know Jay was alive after all these years. Both of them are happy they could hear each others voices again with a phone call 66 years overdue.

Have you begun to feel a sense of distance growing between you and someone you care about? Do you wish there was something you could do to help the reconnection process? A lot of husbands and wives have felt a disconnect in their marriage over the years, and they are not alone. Sometimes friendships can become strained over time without us even realizing it. Whether it be time (like Jay and Gene), events, or disagreements that seperate you two, the fix could be simple.

Write them a note! Write that person a note and let them know how much you care for them. If it is your wife, leave a quick note on her bathroom mirror telling her how beautiful she is. If it is your husband, wrap his debit card with a quick love note and put it back in his wallet. Remind them that you still think about them when they are not around. Remind them that you miss them!

Perhaps it is a friend who you would like to reconnect to. The cure is still the same. Send them a quick text message or email letting them know you appreciate their friendship. You never know how far that can go to help repair a strained relationship. The majority of us own cell phones that do text and email, making us able to send and receive messages "on the fly."

Sometimes we send out these messages and don't get the desired response back, especially from friends. Perhaps they just send back one word, or maybe one sentence responses? You try to get more out of them, only to get less and less of a response as it goes on. Do not be discouraged or allow their response to shut you down. Continue your good work. Even if they only give you 25% back, keep sending them 100%. You will be a better person for it. Also, you can never fully know what affect your words are having on them.

In order to harvest a season of love, you must first plant the seed. Just as grain will not grow without first being planted as see, so to with relationships. So next time you are standing in line at Starbucks, send them a note letting them know that you appreciate them. Stuck in traffic? Send a note. Got a few minutes before a meeting? Send a note.

Want to reap a harvest of love? Send a note.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Are More

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Romans 8:35,37

Have you ever been told "you are useless. You are no good. You will never amount to anything?" Sometimes we believe them, and feel like we have no hope left. No matter how hard we try, we cannot find peace in life. We wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, and with a pounding heart. Anxiety has stirred us from another night of restless sleep. We ask ourselves how we got to where we are, not recognizing ourselves anymore.

God does not want us to feel this way. Before you were born, God has much bigger plans for you (Psalms 139:13). Paul says in Romans 8:35-37 that we have been remade into something far removed from these feelings, i.e., we are more than conquerors. This means we sometimes have to conquer ourselves, demanding a surrender not unto ourselves, but unto God.

It was never Gods plan for man to suffer like this. Today, God wants to remove us from the grips of such hopelessness. The steps to relief are mapped out in God's word. We have to hear His word (Romans 10:17), and believe in it (Hebrews 11:6). Repentance of our past sins that were hurtful to God must be present in us (Acts 3:19), and we are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38) that we may be made new again, free from our previous bonds of misery. When we follow these steps we find peace, living faithfully according to His word.

Remember that life is not made up of the grand total or our past failures, or the consequences of our choices in life. We are not a slave to the problems of the world, but rather the conquerors of them through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13).

Let us get to know God's word, and let it replace that hopelessness with hope. After all, no matter how far down you get, it is never too far down to be out of God's reach (Acts 17:27).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are You a Tree of Life?

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; And he that is wise winneth souls."- Proverbs 11:30 (ASV)

One day a father was visiting his daughter at her new home when she began to complain about life, saying how hard it was and how she was just about ready to give up completely. The father, who was a chef, took his daughter by the hand and led her into the kitchen where he got out three items-carrots, eggs, and coffee. The father, without saying a word, took all three and put them in seperate pots which themselves sat over the burners on high heat. The father never said a word and only smiled while his daughter grew more and more impatient by the minute. Finally, after about twenty minutes, he took the carrots out of the water and put them on a plate. He then did the same with the eggs, after removing their shells. He then poured the coffee through a filter and into a mug. He asked his daughter what she saw.

"I don't see anything but carrots, eggs, and coffee." She responded, exasperated. The father then instructed her to feel the carrots. They were soft. Then the eggs, they were hard. Finally, he asked her to taste the coffee. She smiled as she enjoyed it's rich flavor. "But what's the point?" She asked.

The father began to explain, "Each one of these items went through the same adversity; boiling water. But the carrots that went in strong and firm, are now soft and mushy. The eggs that went in so fragile are now hard. But the coffee responded differently. It went through the same adversity, but rather than change itself, it changed the environment around it."

Wouldn't it be great if we could go through adversity and rather than be changed by it, we change the environment for the better? People are naturally drawn to an upbeat, positive person. They flock around the wise. People follow leaders most naturally because of the wisdom they own, and the charisma they exude. We have the ability to be able to be those leaders. God gave us the wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Many of life's challenges and hardships are addressed within it's pages. The task for us is learning and applying those lessons to our daily lives.

Everyone knows that an apple tree produces apples which is food for our body. Proverbs 11:30 tells us that if we can learn to become righteous (like Christ), people will be drawn to us for the nourishment our examples provide them spiritually. Simply put, they will follow us if we are wise.

But this doesn't come easy. We first have to be able to produce the fruit. People cannot benefit from the example we don't provide. We have to be able to change the environment around us despite the adversity that we face. That comes from gaining wisdom in life.

A wise man once said, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.” This is the sole purpose of the Book of Proverbs. We reflect on it to learn from it, imitate it's wisdom to be wise ourselves, and try to avoid learning through the bitter method of learning the hard way. When we are able to keep true to that simple equation, we are able to move out of the role of the carrot or the egg, which is changed by it's surroundings, and we can become the coffee. Something that changes it's surroundings in difficult times. When we do this we will truly be like the Tree of Life, growing our influence that we can continue to win souls for Christ.

So the question is, are you the carrots, the eggs, or the coffee? Are you going to let life's difficulties change you, or are you willing to meet the challenge of becoming the "Tree of Life" for those around you, so that they may one day know Christ through your example in difficult times?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Determine to Be Different

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

"You're wierd." "You're strange." "There's something different about you."

When we were school children, these words would have killed us. The idea of being ridiculed by our classmates would have been enough to make us beg our parents to pack up and move four states away. Sometimes words can hurt worse than any physical pain, even as adults. By the time we're adults, though, we care a little less about what someone thinks about us. However, that doesn't mean we have stopped caring all together. Why is it then that we, as christians, have set ourselves up to intentionally be considered different, wierd, or strange from the rest of the world?

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary gives the following definitions;

Strange- "not before known, heard, or seen : unfamiliar b : exciting wonder or awe"

Wierd- "of strange or extraordinary character."

Different- " 1. Partly or totally unlike in nature, form, or quality 2. not the same as 3. unusual; special."

When we understand the true definitions of these words, it doesn't seem like they're an insult at all! In fact, it sounds like quite the complement. God tells us that he doesn't want us to be conformed to this world, because it's not our home. It's just a rest stop. A proving ground, if you will. God wants to know if you can follow a simple set of instructions (the Bible) in order to earn the prize at the end (eternity with Him).

Jesus was not of this world, but came into this world to set the example. When we follow his example we are destined to be wierd, different, or strange from this world because Jesus himself was wierd, different, and strange by definition.

So the next time someone tells you you're wierd, different, or strange because of your faith, just remember you're in good company and accept the compliment.

Stay strange. Be wierd. Determine to be different.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Facing Your Past

"And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok." Gen 32:22

Have you ever met someone who was just so much trouble that whenever they were around you kept one hand on your wallet, and the other on your car keys? Afraid that they might feel free to help themselves to whatever belonged to you, without concern or concience? You never let them alone in any room of your house, afraid that they'll leave with everything but the kitchen sink?

Well, Jacob was "that guy". Nobody was safe from his deceit and dishonesty. Not his brother, his father, or his father-in-law. No one was off limits when it came to Jacob getting what he wanted. By hook or crook, he took what he wanted.

The thing about time is that sometimes it has an unforgiving memory, just like the peole we harm. Jacob had to find this out the hard way.

Several years had passed since Jacob had tricked his brother Esau out of his inheritance, and took his birthrite. He was now an old man with several wives, eleven sons, and a household all his own. However, this didn't change Esau's feelings about the wrongs Jacob did to him, and he was out for revenge.

Jacob was camped along the River Jabbok when his brother Esau sent word that he was coming for him. This had to have struck fear into Jacob's heart. After all, he thought he had put plenty of distance and time between the two of them. And now he's coming up behind him? With his bigger, stronger brother Esau on one side, the riverbank on the other and his mind racing 100MPH, Jacob did the only thing he could do...

The 'ford Jabbok' that verse 22 speaks of is translated as ford=overwhelming, Jabbok=wrestle. In other words, it was Jacobs 'overwhelming wrestle'. What an appropriate name for a place where Jacob was forced to confront his past.

You see, no matter how much you change you must pay the consequences for your actions. Whether it's immediate, ten years, or a lifetime down the road a price must be paid in order to right a wrong. For every action there's a reaction. It just may not always be immediate.

The good news for Christians though is that we don't have to face the consequences of our past. We don't have to pay a price. It's already been paid for us. We have a mediator in Christ. Because of his intercession, we don't have to fear the sins of our past that are sneaking up on us.

There's a saying that says that people either smile everywhere you go, or they only smile whenever you go. The choice is going to be yours. Are you like Jacob and be filled with deceit, lies, and trickery or are you going to be like Christ, who is love, respect, and worthy of admiration?

The choice is yours. Will we smile when you come, or when you go?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gods Umbrella

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." James 5:16

Have you ever laid back in the grass on a lazy Spring afternoon and looked up at the big white fluffy clouds in the sky, and daydreamed about how inviting they appear to be? They truly are amazing to look at. After all, they appear to stretch into the sky for what appears to be eternity. We sometimes lay back and think about how it would feel to climb into one of them, lay back and be enveloped up in the softness.

As awe-inspiring as the Cumulonimbus cloud (that’s the scientific name for them) may be during a beautiful day, the real awe-inspiring work of these clouds comes during a torrential storm. It’s when these clouds are a dark gray, so heavy with the weight of rains that they almost look black, still keeping their ominous shape and size, only this time adding an almost debilitating presence of a thunderstorm with it.

Sometimes life mimics the cycles of the clouds. We have days where everything is beautiful, and it’s not difficult to find a silver lining in the clouds. The days are inviting, and we sometimes just sit back and think about the future, anxious almost to a fault for what lays ahead for us. Other times, our lives are filled with the heavy burdens of the violent storms that loom above our heads, threatening to dump a flood of troubles on us. But there is one big difference between our lives and the stormy cumulonimbus clouds.

Sometimes, the stormy cumulonimbus cloud prays better than we do. That's sad to say, considering they don't pray at all. But sometimes, neither do we.

You see, when the storm clouds roll in, and the rains really begin to fall, it’s usually then that we hear the clouds begin to truly speak with a loud audible presence.

Think about a thunderstorm for a moment. Unless you’re in a coma, it’s almost impossible to ignore the fact that a thunderstorm is raging. And this is an amazing thing when you consider that the cumulonimbus cloud that produces these storms can be as high as 12 miles into the sky! It’s as if we humans are hardwired to have a certain reaction when a thunderclap pierces the sky suddenly. We stop what we’re doing, look toward the direction we heard it, and evaluate the sky for the potential of danger. The amazing thing about thunder is that it gets our attention, whether we hear it or not.

When thunder strikes the windows rattle, the Earth shutters, and our chests feel the vibrations. Sometimes even from 12 miles high into the sky! Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could pray with the same amount of power? This of course, would be dependant upon us being willing to open our hearts and minds to God in prayer in the first place.

Sometimes we’re like Moses’ people in that we can be labeled ‘stiff-necked’ about prayer, and this is unfortunate. We know that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). We read the verses dealing with prayer, and even quote them. But we’re slow, and sometimes completely absent from applying it. Don’t you remember that Moses was able to sway God’s anger away from destroying an entire nation who had turned their back on Him just by prayer alone (Ex. 32:7-14)? It was because of the effectual fervent prayer of a single righteous man that saved literally an entire nation of people from utter destruction. This is the amazing power of prayer we can harness ourselves.

We have the promise that whatever we ask for, it will be given to us (1 John 3:22) as long as we ask for it with a righteous mind, seeking to do His will (1 Peter 3:11). God also tells us that we need to pray with a conviction in what we’re asking for, not wavering (James 1:6). Prayer to God is not wasted. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It affirms to God that you have your priorities in line, that you are focused on the ultimate goal and that you recognize the importance of Him in your life. This is why He rewards the righteous among us who converse with Him. It is impossible to say that you put God above all else when you won’t even talk to Him.

God gave us the amazing power of prayer, which is by far the most valuable tool we have in order to help ease the load we carry to do His will. Prayer is God’s umbrella for us. It keeps us safe and dry away from the rains that seek to drown us. If you have an umbrella available to you, aren’t you going to use it? Then why neglect the umbrella God provides to you? Pray like the cumulonimbus cloud. Pray with such voracious conviction that you shake the windows, your chest thumps, and the Earth vibrates. Because after all, sometimes the answers to prayer are best felt.

Are You Taking Refuge?

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah." Psalm 46:1

I remember the day I bought my favorite pair of boots. I bought them for work, and I remember how excited I was to get them. Not only was I excited because it's always nice to get something, but because these weren't just any 'ole boots, these were top of the line. I was a little nervous to order them at first because of the price tag. So much so that my wife Jennifer and I had to discuss whether we could even afford them or not. They cost more than the average boots in the catalog I ordered them from. And when you're just married and starting out in new careers, money doesn't seem to be around as much as you'd like. But after all, they came highly recommended by other guys I worked with. They ended up convincing me by promising I wouldn't be disappointed, that I'd get several years of service out of them.

The day I got them in the mail, I remember opening the box and looking at them. Man, they looked sharp! They were by far the best looking boots I had seen, and were beyond comfortable! I once worked a 22 hour shift straight in them without any problems, they were that comfortable. I used to polish those boots everyday. In fact, I would polish them so much that all the guys at work that convinced me to get them would tease me about them. They had the same boots on their feet, but mine looked different. You know why? Because even after 3 years of service wearing them on patrol daily, they still held a shine.

I found those boots the other day shoved into the back of my closet, and I took a look at them. Even though they had a little bit of dust on them, after dusting them of, there was still a good foundation of the leather to be polished. So, I broke out my black parade boot polish and put a coat on. The leather was back to it's lustery state in no time.

But just as I was thinking to myself just how well these boots had held up, I flipped them over and looked at the soles of them..

They were worn completely flat. I was naive to the their true state.

You see, even though I had taken great care of the part of the boot I saw every day, I had completely neglected the part I never looked at- the sole. I'm not the biggest guy in the world, but I'm not the smallest guy, either. Not including the gear I wore, I weighed 215lbs. Everyday, for three years, those soles were literally pinned between the weight I put on them, and the abrasive concrete. This eventually took it's toll on the rubber bottoms of my boot. They were in desperate need of a trip to the shoe repair shop.

I forgot that the part of a shoe that is going to break down the fastest is the sole. Thats because it's the sole of the shoe that takes the most damage. It supports all the weight of the wearer, and on the other side is an unforgiving surface like concrete.

But you know what? Sometimes we christians are like my pair of boots. We spend all of our time polishing the outside so as to be aesthetically pleasing to those who look at us, all the while neglecting our souls. And our souls are no different from a boots soles. Our souls are the parts that usually carry the brunt of the weight we carry in our lives, all the while being pinned between us and an unforgiving surface, like the world. Things like sales deadlines, over-booked work schedules, double-booked kid's activities and trying to somehow squeeze in family time. These are the every day realities for a lot of us, and it takes it's toll on us; both physically and emotionally.

We need to take the time to mend our spiritual well being a little more often. We spend enough time polishing the outside. Find refuge in God's peace. Focus on your soul for a change. Make sure that it's up to the challenge of another week. Make time in your busy week for God and His people. They are your soul shop, let them mend your soul. After all, it could be wearing thin without you even knowing it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christ Did His Part...

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

Christ wore a crown of thorns so that one day you could wear a crown of righteousness (Mt. 27:29).

His back was pressed against the cross so that you'd have somewhere to turn when your back is against the wall (Heb. 12:2).

His hand opened to accept the nails so that one day your heart would accept Him (John 20:25).

His blood covered the ground so that it would also cover your sins (Col. 1:20).

He rose from the dead in order to prove that there is no seperating the righteous from the love of God. If we are followers of Christ, not even something as permenant as death could seperate us from our Savior (Mt 25:46).

..But it comes at a price.

Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23 you must be willing to deny yourself daily in order to follow Him. Just as Jesus had took up His cross, we're supposed to follow His example and take up ours (Mt. 10:38). After all, faith without works is dead (James 2:20-26).

Jesus did His part perfectly. Are you willing to do yours?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dig a Little Deeper

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Mat 27:46

For as long as I've been a christian, this verse has haunted me. I was familiar with Christ's crucifixion, but never liked reading these verses. I know why, it was because I've always looked at Christ as some sort of superhuman. Simply put, Christ was unbreakable to me. So for him to cry out these words of doubt in a moment of weakness? It shook me.

Have you ever sat back and thought about Christ's crucifixion? Sure, you've read it before, probably in Bible study or heard a preacher do a sermon on it before. But, have you, yourself ever considered the full extent of the agony that he went through? Many of us would have to admit that we haven't. We merely take the Bible at face value, muster up a grain of gratitude until church is over, and then we move on with our lives. Simply put, we're disconnected..

Modern medicine has conducted several examinations of the effects of crucifixion on the human body. The obvious we read about in Bible; the piercing of his hands, and feet. The scourging done to most crucifixion victims, the breaking of bones to hasten death. What isn't well known is the exhaustion that comes from trying to hold yourself up during a crucifixion. You see, when your arms are stretched out and you're forced to hold your self up by them, this hyper-extends your chest muscles and lungs. This makes breathing, much less speech very difficult and exhausting.

Yet, we know that when Christ was hanging on the cross, throughout the entire duration he would lift himself up and speak. Jesus's last seven statements while on the cross before death, according to the Bible are as follows;

1."Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."-Lk. 23:34

2. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."-Lk. 23:43

3."Woman, behold, your son!.. Behold thy Mother!"-Jn. 19:26-27 (Jesus is telling two people that he loved deeply to take care of one another as if they were truly mother and son. Despite his physical suffering, he wants to make sure these two are taken care of after he has passed.)

4."E′li, E′li, la′ma sa‧bach‧tha′ni?"-Mk. 15:34 (Aramaic for "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?". It is also a quotation of the first line of Psalm 22.)

5."I thirst."-Jn. 19:28 (This is in order to bring about a fulfillment of his Father's word. This was prophesied years earlier. Jesus was cognizant of this even in his agony.)

6."It is finished."-Jn. 19:30 (Jesus declares he's done God's will.)

7."Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!"-Lk. 23:46 (Jesus tells God he's giving full faith to Him.)

Notice that none of the seven statements made by Christ are meant to comfort himself, but rather those around him. He was being truly selfless during his darkest hour. This is amazing when we remember that he was the one being put to death!

And remember that verse I had such a hard time with at the beginning of this article? Read Psalms 22, it's the opening of the first verse. If Jesus would have been able to breath he would've finished and we would've recognized that he was praising God, even while hanging on the cross! It took me several years of studying to realize what I had thought was a moment of weakness was so much more. Perhaps he was reciting this Psalm to remind those whom he loved below him that God is righteous and delivers His people? Nevertheless, when I thought he was showing weakness, he was showing me another example of strength and courage.

Christ was thirty, physically exhausted, and asphyxiated. Yet he found the strength to comfort those around him. Jesus set the example of praising God and serving others, all the way up to his death. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper into ourselves in order to find the story of our own strength. It's so difficult to do, put I promise it's no more difficult than being crucified on the cross.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are You Contagious?

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I remember growing up, I had what seemed like an impenetrable immune system. This definitely worked to my disadvantage when test days came around in school. No matter what was floating around, I couldn't seem to catch a break by catching it.

Now, here I am years later, married to my wife, Jennifer, who is a middle school teacher. Like all teachers, she's like a magnet for all the wonderful germs and superbugs that the petri dishes we call classrooms are able to churn out at what could only be described as an alarming rate. Those of you who are parents or teachers know exactly what I'm talking about.

Being married to a teacher has given me the rights and privileges to share in these fantastically unnatural germs. It's definitely not something I prefer to do, but I don't have a choice in it. When she's sick, I'm sick.

We've all heard stories before of husbands who share odd cravings with their pregnant wives, or perhaps even feel their labor pains. Now, even as the latter is a bit extreme, I still don't doubt that it's possible. I know that my wife, Jennifer, and I are connected in this regard. If one of us is suffering from a headache, it's almost a guarantee that the other is as well. When she's sick, I'm sick. After 8 years of a committed relationship to each other, we've gained this blessing/curse. Without speaking all day, it's not unusual for one of us to send the other a text message asking how they're feeling before we know they're suffering too. We've become so close, that we're almost as one.

After you've been in a relationship with someone for a long period of time, you eventually get to the point where you know what each other is thinking and can communicate across a crowded room without speaking a word. It's a skill that grows with time, and is tangible proof of your growth together as a couple. God says that when we are married, we become one flesh. Isn't it amazing how we also become of one mind? God truly is amazing.

Shouldn't we be this way in our relationship with God? Not that He gets sick, but that we should be so close to Him that His thoughts are our thoughts. We as christians are told to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him, both in body and in mind (Romans 12:1,2). We're told to renew our minds to Him so that we aren't conformed to this world.

We know that if our focus is not on God the puzzle pieces of life are harder to fit together. We're moody. We're cranky. We can become depressed. We lose track of our sense of purpose. We become restless. When our focus stays on God, our lives make sense. That's because we're living for Him who created us. It's natural. Even the most bizarre puzzle pieces have their place. We're at peace.

When we're one with God, our attitude is contagious. In a world that is chaotic, and filled with people who don't know Him, we stand out. We're at peace with ourselves and the world around us, even 'worst case scenarios'. You lose your job? No problem. He takes care of the birds, and you're much more valuble to Him than they are. Child is sick? There's never been a case too tough for The Great Physician. On your last leg and have nowhere to turn? He hears the prayers of the righteous. He loves you and wants to take care of you. This in turn produces the right attitude in us. One that can be contagious to others.

We need to be living proof of our living God. We need to renew our minds on God daily, so that we can be one with Him. This, after all, is Gods will for you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Love Never Fails

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

By my count, the word 'love' appears in one form or another 497 times in the King James Verson of the Bible. The breakdown goes something like this;

the word - love - appears 311 times
the word - love's - appears 1 time
the word - loved - appears 98 times
the word - lovely - appears 4 times
the word - loves - appears 2 times
the word - lovest - appears 12 times
the word - loveth - appears 65 times
the word - loving - appears 3 times
497 times total

The Bible makes it clear that our God is a God of love (1 Jn 4:8). It's not surprising though, that He should choose to describe Himself in such a way. His actions surely show it. His determination and steadfastness for us expresses it. His instruction and guidance for us point us in the direction of love. Why then, do we have such a hard time with it?

By nature, we humans are selfish. This is perhaps the very antithesis of love itself. We are all guilty at one point or another of being the very things the Bible says love isn't. We're rude, we can be jealous on occasion, we brag and can be known to be arrogant. We think only about ourselves, especially when irritated. If you cross us, we can't let it go. Sometimes, we even smile on the inside if something bad happens to someone who's done us wrong, justifying our feelings by saying they deserve it. God tells us that we are to have no part in any of this.

But to truly understand love and be in harmony with God, we have to grow into it. The Apostle Paul tells us that when he was a child, he spoke and understood as a child. But as he became a man, he understood as a man. We are no different. With age comes wisdom, with wisdom comes a better understanding of what love is. When we better understand love, we can better understand our God.

Are you doing everything you can to better understand love in your daily life? Are you really working on self improvement the way God would want you to? This would require you to love more, and hate less.

Forgive your coworkers' annoyances more often-there's just a few more hours in the day. Don't lose your cool in rush hour traffic-you're almost home. Don't brag on yourself-let someone else do it for you. Don't be so jealous-appreciate what God has given you! Only then when we look at things from this mindset can we really know what our loving God is all about.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Don't Jump Just Yet!

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Cor. 1:10

I've got several friends who are in the United States Navy, and they all have a varying degree of service under their belt. Some have been in for over 10 years, others have been in for two or so. I'm proud to call them all my friends, and even prouder of the service they provide to our country. It's pretty interesting to talk to these guys when they get back from a sea deployment, because you get to hear all the amazing stories they have. One buddy of mine is a navy rescue swimmer, who has helped capture Somali pirates, and two others have been named sailer of the quarter multiple times over for their heroic actions in the line of duty.

Even with all the stories these guys have, the one that I've yet to hear is the one about the big green pasture out in the middle of the ocean. That's probably because it doesn't exist. What surprises me though, is the number of stories you can hear about boats sinking in the middle of nowhere, far from help.

When your boat starts sinking, you only have two options; start baling water, or start baling overboard. Those are your only two options. The one option you don't have is the option of heading for greener pastures. That's because in the middle of the ocean, they don't exist. If you choose the first option, your chances of surviving is much better. If you and your other boat mates all work together, your chances of survival increase dramatically. Bale water faster, while the rowers row harder- that's the key to success.

One thing you don't do is jump overboard at the first sight of a leak. The first thing you try to do is plug it. Repair your ship! If it continues to flood, then you bale the water. Abandoning ship is the unthinkable. This is because you know that if you go overboard, that puts you out by yourself against the elements-against the world.

Our faith is no different. If there's a problem, we identify it and fix it together. What you don't do is jump overboard at the first sign of trouble. That's because your spiritual security is far better off when your inside, with those who have an interest in your safety. When you're inside the boat, you're out of the elements of the storm. Our church is the tools we use to patch holes and stop leaks. If you start sinking, lets work together. You bale, and I'll row. Together, we'll reach safety once again. We know that if we keep God as our compass, we'll surely reach the safety of the shore.

Christ gave us a perfect church, in which he serves as the head. It is the only truly unsinkable ship. Is your faith rocking? Are you beginning to see leaks in your resolve? Is it time to start baling and rowing? If so, let's work to get to safety together.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Work Out Your Own Salvation

"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" John 6:28

It seems like every time you turn around there's a new diet plan or workout machine that's being touted as the lost key to weight loss. In fact, the diet industry is expected to bring in $68.7 billion dollars. That's $10 billion dollars more than every US auto maker combined. That's quite an amazing statistic! But what is it behind people's mentality that drives them to spend so much? I believe that we are driven to spend so much because simply put, it's easier to spend great amounts of money than it is to spend a great amount of energy. Money has become a less valuable product than energy.

To a point, I can even understand this. The mother of three who comes home from work, has to get everyone fed, make sure homework is done, take kids to soccer and ballet, then home for a bath, and into bed. Whew! What a day! Where is the time for mom or dad? It doesn't exist, let alone time for workouts!

Doctors and other leading workout experts suggest that a cardio workout for the average person should last between 30-60 minutes, at least three times a week. That's at the most, 3 solid hours of working out per week. A week has 168 hours in it. This means that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you only have to spend 1.7% of your week exercising. Yet, millions upon millions of Americans each year opt to spend billions upon billions each year to try to avoid even doing this much.

The sad part is that we've allowed this mentality to infiltrate into our spiritual lives. Many of us have allowed ourselves to become convinced that by simply giving 1 hour a week (generally on Sunday mornings) to God, that that'll be enough to keep us spiritually healthy. 1 hour a week is only .5% of our entire week, yet some of us act like this is enough. Unfortunately, this usually leaves us in the same place as the diet pills- unhealthy, unwise and depressed.

Jesus demands us to go out and work every day as his disciples. And not just a 30 minute per day type work ethic. At the end of Luke chapter 9, Jesus tells us that the work that lies ahead of us will not be easy work. But it's our responsibility to make sure we're doing God's work, just as Jesus did.

You have a choice though, are you going to try to operate your spiritual life on the same principles that guide your wallet and waist line? If so, you know all too well where this will lead you. Just don't say you weren't expecting it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Are You a Paperclip?

When was the last time you actually thought about what a paperclip really does? Think about it, it performs a very important function. It holds several independant pieces of paper together. Why is this important? I know it's stating the obvious, but each individual piece of paper holds a key piece of the entire story, whether the story is a work document, a manuscript, or a sales contract. Either way, if one sheet of paper goes missing, we're in big trouble.

The congregation you attend (or should be attending) is like the manuscript, and all the individual members together make up the whole story. But we still need members who are willing to step up and say, "I can be a paperclip."

But be warned, the job of a paperclip is not an easy one. It becomes your responsibility to try to keep the peace among the sheets of paper. It's your responsibility to keep papers from flying away in the winds that come along. To be certain, this job is not for the intolerant or weak.

A paperclip must not pass judgment, it's not their job to decide which sheet of paper has the best personaility, therefore allowed to stay in the story. Their personality may just be what the story needed. My point is not that we should be tolerant of any and all that walk through the door, but rather that we shouldn't create divisions where the scripture doesn't. That's not the job of a paperclip.

So the question stands? Are you a paperclip? If not, can you be? Are you willing?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Power of a Selfless Prayer

I never want to pray about me because when I do, I lose sight of you. You see, in order to look at myself, I have to take my eyes off of you. This was Peter's problem when crossing the water to Jesus. His mind lost focus of Christ, and instead turned inward, focusing on the dangers all around him. Rather than staying focused on Christ, Peter focused on Peter. If Peter would have focused on Christ, would he have still begun to sink? Of course not! Because rather than a selfish worry, he would have continued to trust in Jesus and His power to save him.

You see, if you're busy asking God to help you, then by necessity you have to stop focusing on those in need around you- even if it's just for a moment. And we know that disasterous things can happen in only moments. The average tornado is on the ground for less than 10 minutes, yet when they happen, they are utterly devastating. If you're praying for yourself, while everyone else is praying for you, then who is praying for them? It leaves a void.

God would much rather hear a prayer on behalf of someone else rather than a prayer for yourself. That's because a prayer for someone else comes from such an unselfish place, and this truly pleases God.