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.