True Story!

While on their honeymoon in October 2013, a man went out for a swim on the Florida coast while his newlywed wife watched from the shore. After being pulled into the ocean due to riptides and currents, the groom soon found himself in a treacherous situation and began to yell for help. His wife stood by, unable to help – seeing her new husband drawn further and further into the sea.

Then, from out of nowhere, a teenage surfer comes by, and using his surfboard as a lifesaver, helps the man to shore.

Regaining their composure, the couple reunites; hugging and kissing each other, saved from what could have been a fatal accident.

The teenager then disappeared; the couple unable to find him to thank him. Later they found him through the media and found out that he couldn’t wait around “[He] had homework” to do.

You too, can be a Life SAVER!

Salvation (faith) comes from hearing the Word of the Lord (paraphrased from Romans 10:17).

If we look closely at Romans 10, we find an implied command hidden in some questions:

13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15 NASB)

Want to be a Life Saver? Spread God’s Word!

Don’t look back!

We have heard the advice before: Don’t look back!

In our everyday lives, we sometimes have the notion to look back on past successes, failures, and great memories that we have from our lives.  There is no harm in this; at least that’s what we think.

Let’s look at what Jesus taught to a new follower:

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

… 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57, 62-62)

This illustration was given to a farming culture; it was simple to understand that if they looked back, that the plowing would veer off course and be unfit for planting. The implication is that the row would need re-plowed, which would take time and effort.

In this passage, Jesus implies that following Him is more important than family. He tells the new disciple to follow Him first, putting family second. This is a hard concept for many people.

When we prioritize our lives, we almost always put something above God. Think about the time you spend on a daily basis, how much is given to God?

Both positive and negative aspects of our lives can become distracting to our Christian walk with God. An easy way to keep these in order is thinking of what God provides for you.  We tend to think about the good things in our life, and forget the great things that God has done for us.

Nothing new today….

Nothing new here, just wish I had a second chance! How many times have we ever said that in our lives?

From saying the wrong thing, choosing the wrong path, or making the wrong decision, we have all made mistakes in our lives. Except when we were kids, we have probably said or thought we needed a second chance at least every month of our lives, maybe more often.

Today, I was driving across town, and made a bad choice. I received a text while driving, and instead of stopping to check it, or waiting until later, I looked at my phone! Did I wreck? No, thank God. In fact, I wasn’t close to wrecking; I continued driving along and listening to the radio.

However, after driving a short distance down the 4 lane road, I observed in my peripheral vision that the truck beside me was maintaining my exact speed. Looking over to see why he might be maintaining my speed, he glanced down at my phone (now in my lap), and shook his head. He was right; and so is everyone else (including my family) that says DON’T text and drive.

Sure, I’ve heard it before, and I am very guilty of it. I casually read texts, and generally reply. But WHY?

 Texting and Driving is so stupid!

Why does it take someone we don’t know to tell us we are wrong? Today, I disappointed a total stranger, and it got to me. I need to stop! I need a second chance, because I’ve been stupid. I’ve denied the risks of it long enough; I admit it, I’m a driving textaholic. (I don’t do it frequently, but I do it, and if you do it at all, then you are as guilty as me).

I’ve heard experts say that there are 7 steps to recovery (other experts market 12 step programs). Either way, I’m at least 2 steps into recovery, because I’m already admitting it. Thankfully, I haven’t wrecked, and I have a second chance. Before I lose my life to it, I need to stop!

You know what? That’s not the only problem in my life. I’m a sinner! And before I lose my life to it, I need to stop! And that is a MUCH BIGGER problem for me. Thankfully, Jesus came to earth to give me a second chance.

There are so many Scriptural passages relating to second chances, but one you may not know well is from Micah 7:18

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”

The Bible is full of examples of leaders, even great leaders of God’s chosen people that made mistakes (David, Peter, Abraham…the list goes on). After all, we are only human. Yet, God is willing and loving enough to forget our past discretions and give us that second chance, even a third chance when necessary, and continuing as many times as we have need.

We are reminded that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
But please note what this passage says clearly: “IF we confess” – it doesn’t say that it comes by itself. See, this is part of that 7 step process of recovery. However, the GOOD news is that with Jesus, it doesn’t take 7 steps!

Sure, we still have to admit our sins, that’s the first step: admit and turn away from our sins. The second step is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God as only He can proclaim; He will forgive us of our sins and make us righteous. Last, but not least, is confessing, or better clarified as accepting Jesus as our LORD and SAVIOR.

Those few steps summarize what must be done for us to have a second chance. You see, even Satan himself knows he is a sinner; he even knows that Jesus is the Son of God. But He has not accepted Jesus as Lord (master) of his life. When we are lost to sin, there is a simple solution. Jesus has provided a second chance – a way for us to get into Heaven.

The first step is to admit we need Him.
The second is to believe that He can do it.
The third is simply accepting His invitation.

Need a second chance on life? It’s that easy!

Get a grip man!

What are you missing out on? Facebook, Twitter, E-mail – you name it, there are so many ways today to keep up with friends, not to mention the phone (does anybody really use one of those anymore….as a phone I mean?) There are so many options – we won’t miss a thing anymore, right?

With the world of high tech gadgets, we are constantly empowered to choose how and when to interact with family, co-workers, and business associates; we can literally get any update, at any time, at the tip of a finger. And just think of how many minutes . . . no HOURS – it saves us every day!

What? You don’t seem to have extra hours laying around now that technology has brought you the ability to interact with people all over the world in the blink of an eye?

What has happened? Are you distracted by games, too much Candy Crush for you? Maybe your attention is diverted by over 350 million photos that are posted on facebook DAILY.* Or maybe you are just one of over 4.5 BILLION “likes” that occur on the 10 Billion status updates daily.* Maybe you prefer Youtube – and are one of 100 Million viewers of videos daily.*

Whatever you have succumbed to, something out there has probably snagged your “free time.” Personally, I try to waste my time equally in all areas of social media except Vine and Twitter – which I’m sure to have before long.

So, how do we get a grip on it again? First, let’s agree that we need to get a grip on it.

Sure, we all have friends and family, and it’s a great thing to keep up with what is going on in their life. But what is going on right before us? I find myself missing out on LIFE, because I am trying to keep up with other people’s lives. Next time you go to a restaurant, or worse yet, the PARK, look at how many people are looking at their phones and not at each other, their kids, or the beautiful world! It is truly amazing!

Hey, I’m just as guilty as anyone else. BUT, I’m going to try to reduce the time I spend on technology, and spend some time on famil-ology. (OK, I know that’s not a word, but sadly I don’t think there is a word to describe spending time with one’s family – in a live setting that is).

Do you find yourself hooked to your phone, tablet, or laptop hours and hours trying to keep up with friends? If you know what your Facebook “friends” were doing last night, and don’t know what your child is doing NOW then maybe you too could spend time on famil-ology.

Drop the phone (not literally, just put it down), and go PLAY with your kids!

 
Acknowledgements to: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/according-to-facebook-there-are-350-million-photos-uploaded-on-the-social-network-daily-and-thats-just-crazy/

Why don’t WE do that?

It’s Wednesday, and that means AWANA night (well, yesterday was). As Kimberly and I prepared for church yesterday, we said to each other “Where is Wesley’s AWANA vest and booklet?” And of course, after our recent move, the obvious answer was “I don’t know.”

Well, we found everything fairly quickly, but…that is when we realized we had not been practicing his memory verses with him.

Now, let me ask each of you: What is wrong with that phrase?

“that is when we realized we had not been practicing his memory verses with him.”

First, I will admit, there may be a grammatical or spelling error, as this was not checked by my newly volunteered proof reader yet.  (Hopefully that will start soon, so that I will no longer blog in error).

Back to the phrase: did you find any words that were just plain WRONG?

Maybe it’s only implied, but these memory verses are not Wesley’s to learn.  They are God’s verses from His Word, and although Wesley should learn these for AWANA, we should ALL learn them for LIFE.

The Psalmist declares that we should memorize scripture so that we might not sin against God (Psalm 119:11). That is probably a good reason by itself, but as some would note: it has a negative connotation.  It’s one of those things that we should do so we don’t suffer bad consequences.  But did you know that there are positive reasons to memorize God’s Word?

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight (Jeremiah 15:16 NIV)

The first chapter of the Bible I memorized in Seminary was Romans 8; it includes this joyful future promise:

16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:16-17 NIV)

In Matthew 4, Jesus used God’s Word to defend against vicious attacks from the devil.

In Ephesians 6:17, we are reminded that God’s Word is the Sword of the Spirit (part of the Full Armor of God).

And last but not least, from Deuteronomy we find:

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 NIV)

If we don’t memorize Scripture and have it in our hearts, how can we be the Christian, the brother, the father (or mother)…that God wants us to be? From now on, I recommend we all take time to memorize Scripture with our kids (or own your own – there’s an app for that!).  Having God’s Word in our hearts will help us in everyday life.

Warning – GRAPHIC Content!

For Christmas I received one of the popular alarm clocks that uses your iphone/ipod to play music, versus the loud and annoying BEEP, BEEEP, BEEEEP of normal alarms.

This morning my favorite song was in rotation playing: “The Great I AM.”

I have attached the clip here from youtube that plays with video. One warning – it contains GRAPHIC content from THE PASSION.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFa4Q6elRgE (Make sure your volume is up on your speakers) [I apologize in advance for any advertisement that Youtube may play at the beginning]

“Great I Am” by Phillips, Craig & Dean

I want to be close, close to Your side
So Heaven is real and death is a lie
I want to hear voices of angels above Singing as one
[CHORUS] Hallelujah, holy, holy
God Almighty, the great I AM
Who is worthy, none beside Thee God Almighty, the great I AM
I want to be near, near to Your heart
Loving the world and hating the dark
I want to see dry bones living again Singing as one
[CHORUS]
The mountains shake before You
The demons run in fear
At the mention of the name
King of Majesty
There is no power in hell
Or any who can stand
Before the power and the presence of the great I AM
[CHORUS]

How close do you want to get to Him: The Great I Am? He is Holy; He is Worthy, God Almighty, the GREAT I Am!

 

[ The same song is attached here without the graphic video (I just don’t think it has the same impact): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9yWgU8SZa8 ]

Who do you call in the dead of winter?

Today’s cold snap across the southeast and being up at 5:30 am reminds me of the old phrase “in the dead of winter.” It’s cold, dark, and just plain dreary outside.

Unfortunately, at this time of the year, it is very likely that you or your “neighbor” across town may lose electricity.  What man once lived without (and didn’t “need”) has now become something we take for granted. Electricity is no longer considered a luxury, but a necessity that isn’t given second thought. We just plain expect it to be there when we need it, without even thinking about it.  My guess is that you frequently lift a hand when entering a room unconsciously to turn on the light.

Compare this with Salvation. Man once didn’t need Salvation (sinless in the Garden of Eden). But now Salvation is a necessity, and for many people it isn’t given a second thought. People come to know Christ, and then some either drift away, or don’t ever think about it again. Others are aware of their Salvation, but do so unconsciously.  How often do you rely on your Salvation to save you from your sins, but do it unconsciously?

For example, I know I am a sinner. I know I am saved.

I once repented of my sins and came to know Christ, but….when was my last repentance? I’m not talking about confessional where Catholics go to ask for forgiveness from a priest in the church. I’m talking about confessing and repenting to the one true priest. When we sin, we are pushing God away, for God cannot be near sin. And sin is a very powerful problem; it can overtake our lives. However, as we repent of our sins, the Lord has the power to forgive, and we draw near to Him again. His mercy and grace are abundant, purifying our souls and making us righteous.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to the confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. (Hebrews 4:14-16 HCSB)

When electricity goes out, people call the power company to report the issue and assess when it will be back on.  When sin becomes the power hoarder in our lives, we need to call on Jesus, report (repent of) the issue, and receive immediate grace – helping us at the proper time. Make sure you are calling the right “power” company this winter to fix your internal issue(s); Jesus is waiting on your call….

Back to work

We have an excellent congregation to witness to when we are at our place of employment. Unfortunately, Christians sometimes miss the opportunity to present a positive witness for God when we under-perform at work.

Many of us are headed back to work after some much needed time off. For some this means a day of unpleasant tasks and interruptions by a boss we don’t like.

Therefore, let’s consider a passage that clearly instructs us on how to work:

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8 NKJV)

First, the Bible clearly prescribes us to be obedient to our superiors; and it plainly orders us to do this with “sincerity of heart” (verse 5).  What I find interesting, though, is that we are told to do this as if we are working for the Lord.  “Doing the will of God from the heart….as to the Lord, and not to men” (verses 6-7).

We are to do our job as if God is our superior, and that He is the one directing our work.

Don’t be the person at work that works only when the boss is watching; nor someone who has a lackadaisical attitude towards your job.

You might be thinking that you can’t do this. Maybe you think you are in the wrong line of work. Maybe you have a horrible boss.  I’ve been there – I know what you’re thinking.

Remember this: you can’t always change your environment, but you can change your attitude.  Strive for success at work, knowing that you are working for the Lord.

The Lord is with you . . . GO!

As I head off to work today, I can’t seem to overcome that feeling of “eww…, yuck.”

Ok, it’s not as bad as in past years. At least now, I like my job.

But many people do not find their jobs interesting, much less enjoyable.

And because it has been since before Christmas that I went to work, it still has that sense of “Do I really have to go to work?” Of course the answer is a resounding YES (assuming I want to stay current on bills, have food on the table, a place to live, etc).

The thought of doing something we don’t like is normally repulsive. We don’t like what we don’t like.

So, let’s talk about something you probably don’t like: witnessing.  You may not describe it as repulsive, but I’m sure that most of you don’t wake up in the morning and say “I can’t wait to witness today.”

Why is it then that we don’t like to do it?  My experience tells me that FEAR is the number one reason people don’t witness.

We are afraid of how people might respond.  We are afraid of what people might think of us. We are afraid someone might ask us a question about God, the Bible, etc. that we don’t have an answer for.

Don’t let this stop you.  You might think all of these things, and more.  But don’t let Satan influence you.  The Bible clearly tells us to go and tell!  Why then should we let Satan win?

When we fail to witness, because of our fears, we are affirming to Satan that we are afraid. We are letting him rule our lives. And if we let him control this aspect, how many more parts will he try to get?

The Bible clearly tells us in adjoining verses that we are to

1)      Go

2)      He will be with us.

Why be afraid if He, the LORD GOD, is with us?

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20 KJV)

The Lord is with you, Go!

Have you read the instruction manual for that?

It’s 2014, as if you didn’t know. And that means a New Year!

Many people have updated their Facebook status – talking about having no regrets for 2013; commenting that we should forget the past and live 2014 as if it was a new beginning.

They are right, to some extent. We shouldn’t labor over what happened or what we did or didn’t do. Although we should repent of our past sins, I want to focus on the scriptural basis for new beginnings today.

When I think of new beginnings, I look at the life of Saul/Paul. His life was once marked by overwhelming sin: relentless persecution, constant destruction, and murder.  Yet, God performed remarkable changes to, and through him. If God can do this for Paul, then what does the Bible say God can do for us?

Sometimes people see the stories in the Bible as just that: “stories.” However, the Bible has been given to us as a guide for life, sort of “instruction manual” (ok men, we do have to read this one!).

The Bible is not just stories. It has life application, and many times speaks directly to us.  While much of the Bible is historical in nature, it contains more than just chronological elements. For example:

Poetry and Songs (Psalms, Songs of Solomon… )

Laws , Rules, and Wisdom (Exodus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, Proverbs, James,…)

Hope/Good News (Gospels)

Letters (New Testament writings)

Paul wrote his letters to people with all types of issues in their lives.  His letters spoke about the past, but more specifically what change was necessary to bring about new life.

Let’s look at several letters and an Old Testament writing about New Beginnings:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor 5-17-19 NKJV

18 Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I will do a new thing, – Isaiah 43:18-19a NKJV

22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-23 NKJV

Each of these passages (and there are more in the Bible) remind us that the past should be done away with. We have the opportunity to start fresh in Christ.

Therefore, as we start 2014, I encourage each of us to put off the past and start new.  Maybe you will want to do this as a family, in prayer, where you repent of your sins, and ask God to help you be renewed in your spiritual walk.