June 15, 2018
We’ve all done something stupid. Something we regretted. We’ve all gotten ourselves into embarrassing situations. Found ourselves in a situation too difficult to handle on our own. Stuck.
Whatever situation you may have found yourself in…no matter how stupid you may have been or the pickle you may have been stuck in…it’s a safe bet that Kaitlyn Strom of Litchfield, MN has you beat.
Kaitlyn was with a group of friends who were enjoying the Winstock Country Music Festival. This past Friday evening as she and her friends were hanging out and enjoying the festival something unusual happened. Kaitlyn recalls, “We were just having fun and I saw this big exhaust pipe and I was like, ‘Hey, my head could probably fit in that,’ so I tried it. It did fit, but it didn’t want to come back out.”
Upon hearing about this story, I was immediately reminded of something a friend of mine once pointed out: “You can’t fix stupid.” The truth is…we’ve all…because of our own stupidity found ourselves in some less than glamorous situations. Unfortunately…the trend will probably continue.
The good news for Kaityln Strom is that, after having her melon stuck in the tailpipe of a strangers pickup truck for about 45 minutes…the Winsted Fire Department was called and came to the rescue. Before long, they had cut the exhaust pipe and freed Kaitlyn’s seemingly empty knoggin from it’s preposterous prison.
In Genesis chapter 31, Jacob leaves the land of his father-in-law, Laban, and is heading back to his own people. Hurriedly, he loads up his family and possessions and leaves without telling Laban. Jacob has good reason for doing so. You see, his father-in-law had continually taken advantage of Jacob and had a well earned reputation for being a person Jacob couldn’t and shouldn’t trust. Shortly after Jacob leaves, Laban gets ear of the news and takes off after him. He shows up filled with nothing but accusations toward Jacob. Jacob listens and then, he lets loose. I mean…Jacob lets two decades of pent up emotion out…all in a matter of moments. He brings up all the ways Laban has tricked and taken advantage of him…and points out his own faithfulness despite how he was treated over the years. And then, in verse 42, Jacob makes an observation. “God saw the fix I was in.” (The Message Bible)
You may never find yourself in the fix Kaitlyn Strom found herself in. I certainly hope not. If so, you need more help than I can offer in this short devotion. :) But, without question, you will find yourself in situations where you feel helpless and stuck. Some of these situations will be of your own making and some of them will happen despite you. You’ll have questions and doubt and wonder how in the world you’ll ever get out of the circumstances or sitution you are experiencing. You might be there now.
Allow me to encourage you: God sees the fix your in! Call out for help! He can fix your fix!
Worship leader, Alvin Slaughter, sings a song called “GOD CAN.” Today, if you find yourself in a bind…stuck in a pickle…in a fix you can’t find your way out of...THERE IS HOPE! I pray the words of this song will bring you hope in whatever situation you may find yourself in.
When you can't move the mountain
That's standing in your way
I came to tell you God can
I said God can
And when you can't turn the darkness
Into the light of day
I got good news for you God can
God can God can God can
When you can't find the answers to
All your doubts and fears
God can God can
When you are needing someone to
Wipe away your tears
God can God can
God can do more than you
Could ever ask or think
He holds all power in His mighty hand
When you can't see your way just
Remember this my friend
God can God can
When you can't change your past and you
Can't heal your broken heart
God can God can
When you can't find courage to make a
Brand new start
God can God can
When you are at your weakest
He'll fill you with His strength
It's not by might but by His Spirit
That we do all things
Yes, you can face the future when your
Hope is in His hands
I have a God who can do anything
I have a God who is still the King of kings
I have a God who is able to do
Above and beyond what you could
Ask Him to
God can God can
June 5, 2018
Cherokee Junior High School in Springfield, Missouri is where I learned one of life’s valuable lessons. You have to understand…when it comes to athletics…I’m the type of person who is adequate at pretty much any sport…and exceptional at none. In the fall of 8th grade, I tried out for the basketball team. I survived through the first couple of days which basically consisted of shooting the ball and some dribbling drills. Then came day three…running…lots of running. I’m not a fan of running…unless I’m getting chased by something bent on harming me. Yet…in hopes of making the team…I ran…and I ran…and I ran. I ran until somewhere deep in the dark confines of my 8th grade stomach…whatever I had for lunch decided to make a second appearance. Fully aware my tuna fish sandwich was preparing to make an encore…I made a mad dash attempt to make it to the locker room on the other side of the gymnasium. With everything happening in seemingly slow motion…I made it off the playing surface…and as I approached the door…I could hold it no longer…Mt. Mouth-suvious was gonna blow. In one cataclysmic cacophony of chunder…I tossed my cookies directly onto the only working water faucet around. Needless to say, regardless of how parched anyone may have been from myriad of running drills…everyone instantaneously lost their thirst. I didn’t make the team…but I’m pretty certain that while nobody probably remembers a single game from that season…the memory of that day is etched in gray matter forever.
Now remember…I don’t like to run. What willingness I might have ever had to run should have been completely erased following my failed attempt to acquire a position on the basketball team. Yet…for some boneheaded reason…I actually decided to try out for track soon after. And somehow…someway…I made the team. Looking back…I think everyone made the team. I guess anyone crazy enough to try gets rewarded. Regardless…I made the team. I ended up running on a relay team…but was featured most prominantly in what was commonly referred to as “The Fun Run.” This is the event they put people in who have no business running. It’s the “Hey, you’re awful at this…but we gotta come up with something for you to be involved in” race. Still…I was a part of the team.
Soon after I’d made the track team…I started growing. I may not have run quickly…but when it came to growing…I was world class. Within 2 to 3 months I would eventually end up growing 4+ inches in height. Those two plus months were wretched. Track practice became my place of torment. The running compounded with the growing pains I was experiencing as an 8th grade boy was enough anguish, agony, and affliction…to give me extra motivation to make sure I was right with God. As far as I’m concerned…hell will include fire, brimstone, darkness…and running. I wanted and still want no part of it.
I felt like quitting. I wanted to run away from the running. The pain I was expriencing was robbing me of any joy I might have possibly hoped to find. My feet hurt horribly. My arches and heels ached to the point it would wake me up at night. But I had a Dad who wouldn’t let me quit. I’d made a commitment. Regardless of what race I ran…regardless of how much pain I was in…despite the difficulty I so desperately wanted to dodge…I was a part of a team. I didn’t like my Dad’s decision. It certainly wasn’t the easiest or most comfortable choice. The easy thing would have been to run away rather than run the right way. Dad taught me to endure difficult days. I couldn’t see it at the time…but it’s one of the greatest gifts he ever gave me.
Within the past few years…I passed the same lesson onto my own son as he found himself a part of a High School basketball team where he and others were treated less than well by the team’s coach. The easy thing would have been to quit. It would have been easy…even “justifiable” to say, “I don’t have to put up with this abuse,” and walk away from it all. But the easy thing isn’t necessarily the right thing. So…my son stuck it out…he learned to endure hardship.
Early this morning as I sat on my patio, drinking a dark cup of coffee, listening to the birds chirp, and reading Genesis 16, God showed me something that I want to share with you. Genesis 16 is honestly one of my very favorite chapters in all of Scripture. Abram and Sarai get impatient with God and take things into their own hands. Sarai talks Abram into sleeping with her maid, Hagar, in the hopes of having a child. Hagar ends up getting pregnant and as soon as she does, Sarai becomes abusive to Hagar. Hagar didn’t deserve the treatment she was getting. She didn’t do anything except follow the orders her master had given her. Yet the treatment she received was nothing less than abuse. She was being abused…being treated unfairly…despite doing absolutely nothing wrong. Hagar, probably saying to herself, “I don’t have to take this,” runs away. She’s alone. She’s in the desert. She’s hungry. And then comes the part of the chapter I love so much. God in His infinite love and mercy goes after Hagar and finds her.
What’s interesting to me is what God ends up saying to Hagar. You know, our Western mindset, would lead us to believe God would show up and give her a way of escape from her troubles. We assume God would show up in her situation or ours…a situation where we are being treated unfairly…where we are experiencing undeserved suffering…and we most often believe God would show up and say, “You know what, you’re right. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. You don’t have to take this any longer. I never called you to be anybody’s doormat. You have every right to leave and you should leave.” But that’s not what God says to Hagar. He says exactly the opposite. God says in Genesis 16:9, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” In The Message Bible, it’s rendered this way, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her abuse.”
Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that instead of providing a way out of her troubles…God sent her right back into them. Yes…that’s exactly what I’m saying. You don’t hear that much from the pulpits in America. Praise God for messages of encouragment…but God never led Hagar to experience her best life now. Instead…He called her to endure.
Let’s be clear. If you’re reading this and you find yourself in an unhealthy, abusive, dangerous situation…you need to get help. If you’re being physically, sexually, or mentally abused by someone…you need to escape. If you are in one of these situations, visit www.thehotline.org or www.childhelp.org.
But…Allow me to encourage you with the following thought: While we certainly shouldn’t run towards unnecessary problems…Running away from the problems we do have rarely solves them. Every time a problem arises…don’t expect God to help you escape it. It may very well be that He will help you to endure it.
Could it be that the problems you’re currently experiencing might ultimately be the source of growth and blessing in your life? Could it be that within the trial you’re facing you experience the peace of God in a way you’ve never known? Could it be that learning to endure the current test may one day prepare you to tackle the greater tasks and opportunities that lay ahead?
Life isn’t easy. It's also not fair. Our days are filled with difficulties. Too many people take the easy way out. Our society is filled with people who quit instead of enduring. God never promised us smooth sailing. In fact…we are promised troubles. I hope and pray you enjoy your best life now…but I wouldn’t count on it. As you live for Christ and endure the hardships (2 Timothy 2:3-4) that come your way…you are promised a reward which is: Your best life later! Eternity in Heaven with Christ!
When those troubles come…go ahead and ask God for help. Believe me…I never pray asking God to send me more problems. I’m gifted at asking Him to provide a way of escape. Sometimes He does…most often He doesn’t. More often than not, I’m asked to endure…with HIS help…and through the process of enduring the difficulty that my sensitivity to His power and presence is heightened.
So…when the going gets tough and you feel like throwing in the towel…keep running! “Run with endurance the race that is set before” you! (Hebrews 12:1)
My life has been greatly impacted by the following short story:
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.
The photo above is a great visual of this mindset. Whoever’s handy-work that is…definitely wins the “That’s Not My Job” award. It’s funny…yet sad at the same time. How could someone possibly be that lazy and or stubborn? Yet, although maybe not as extreme, this plays out in so many ways every single day all around the world. We're asked to do a chore that is normally a siblings. We're asked to perform a task at work which someone else ought to do. We're asked to serve in a volunteer role we'd rather not serve in. Somewhere…someplace…someone is thinking, saying, and acting upon this thought, “That’s not my job.”
This morning, I was finishing up the book of 2 Chronicles during my time of personal Bible reading. When I came to chapter 34, something jumped out at me that I had never noticed before. By the way, I love it when the Holy Spirit speaks something fresh in His Word using a passage I’ve read on many other occassions!
King Josiah had set out to clean up and restore the Temple of God. Various individuals and groups of people are mentioned and we are told what their specific roles were in the restoration process. The last few words of verse 12 and the entirity of verse 13 caught my eye. The Bible tells us that the Levites were all skilled musicians.
Now, I don’t know about you…but I prefer to function in areas where I can draw upon and use my natural skill set. These fellas were skilled musicians. King Josiah certainly was aware of this fact. You’d assume the Levites would be assigned a job using their natural skills. And honestly…we can safely assume they were. But in this passage they were asked to do more. They were asked to do something that quite honestly…wasn’t their job. At the very least, they were being asked to to something they’d probably never been asked to do previously.
It’s a little humorous. The skilled musicians are put in charge of the common laborers and also asked to serve as accountants, managers, and security guards. Can you imagine the look on these guys faces? Yet they faithfully served in roles they weren’t naturally skilled in. They stepped up to the plate and performed jobs and tasks that weren’t necessarily theirs to perform. There’s no record of anyone saying, “That’s not my job.” And because they were willing to humbly serve in ways regardless of whether or not it was their job…the Temple was restored and revival was experienced throughout the nation.
Sometimes we are asked to do things that aren’t in our wheelhouse. Sometimes the tasks we’re given don’t match the skill set we possess. Sometimes we are asked to fulfill a role that belongs to another. How will we respond? How should we respond? Let’s follow the lead of our Levite friends in 2 Chronicles 34!
Next time, instead of saying, “That’s not my job”, why not step up to the plate, take a swing, and see what happens. See it as an opportunity instead of a burden. Oh yes…, saying “That’s not my job” may help you avoid doing extra work…but it may also label you as someone who’s unwilling to go above and beyond or just plain lazy….preventing you from advancing in your career and earning the trust and favor of those in authority over you.
And as a follower of Christ…all our work…whatever it may be is an opportunity to glorify God! So remember…whether the task is something your naturally gifted in or not: “Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23)
It seems a modern day Spiderman made an appearance in Paris this past Saturday evening. For one family living in the City of Lights, potential tragedy turned into triumphant rescue!
As the crowds relaxed, munching on their baguettes in the sidewalk cafes lining the street, terror permeated the air four stories above them. As a father sat in his own little world playing Pokemon, his 4-year-old child had walked out onto the balcony, climbed over the rail, and was dangling precariously some 40 feet off the ground. In the moment, all hope seemed lost.
But it's when all hope seems lost that heroes are born. Sitting in a nearby cafe where he had met a group of friends to watch the 2018 UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid, Mamoudou Gassama, a 22-year-old migrant worker from Mali, heard a cackle of worried voices crescendoing on the street just outside the cafe doors.
Into a scene devoid of hope...Gassama leaped into action while the crowds simply watched. That's what heroes do. Knowing there was no time to hesitate, Gassama, fueled by a rush of adrenaline, desperation, and concern, ran to the rescue. Mustering all of his strength, with arachnoid like agility, he began to pull himself...arm over arm...level after level...towards the plight above.
At last...after nimbly ascending four balconies...having risked his own life in an effort to save another...Gassama, now standing securely on the balcony...pulled the terrified toddler to safety, no longer teetering on the brink of life and death.
On Monday, after his heroic rescue of the boy, Mamoudou Gassama, a migrant from Mali, met with French President Emmanuel Macron who rewarded our hero with full citizenship.
I think rescue stories capture our imagination because our God is a rescuing God. God is in the rescuing business! That’s what He does!
In Psalm 91:15, God says, “When you call on Me, I will answer; I will be with you in your trouble and I will rescue you!”
Our God is a rescuing God! He's the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to rescue the one! He sent His only Son to , "Seek and save (rescue) those who are lost!" (Luke 19:10)
Galatians 1:3,4 says “Jesus gave His life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.”
The heart of the Father is to rescue and because it is…it must be our heart too. You see…God uses rescued people to rescue people. You were rescued so you can rescue others.
Proverbs 24:11,12 - “Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’ will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know—Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”
All around you, there are people who are perishing. They are dangling...hanging between life and death. What will you do? Will you run to the rescue?
This past Saturday evening, on a beautiful evening in Paris, hundreds of people watched while one heroic person ran to the rescue. Simply put...as Mamoudou Gassama proved...in order to rescue someone who is teetering on the brink of living or dying...you can't afford to hesitate...and you certainly can't sit there and watch. You've got to stop eating, lay the warm baguette down on the table...get up from your place of comfort and run to the rescue. Mamoudou Gassame did and you can too! In fact...we must!
On Monday, two days after heroically choosing not to stay seated, Mamoudou Gassame, sat in the palace of French President Emmanuel Macron and this migrant from Mali was rewarded with full French Citizenship.
Mamoudou Gassame was rewarded for running to the rescue. You will be too! While you certainly can't gain access to heaven through your good works, you will certainly be rewarded for them upon your arrival! Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, "Listen! I am coming soon! I will bring my reward with me, and I will repay each one of you for what you have done."
Within earshot of where you sit reading this today…people are dying. The heart of the Father is to rescue the perishing. Rescued people rescue people! So...today I encourage you...no more excuses...stop hesitating...put the baguette down...get out of your comfortable seat...let God use you...run to the rescue!
May 22, 2018
I am a hugger. I love a hug. At 47 years old, there is still nothing I love much more than receiving a hug from my parents, wife, and children. This son still craves a hug from his mom and dad. There’s nothing like it.
It is believed that the word “hug” comes from the word “hugga” in the old Norse language. It first appreared nearly 450 years ago in Scandinavia and it means, “to comfort.”
You may not enjoy a hug…but if you know me long…like it or not…I’m gonna give you a hug. In my opinion, a hug is a warm sweater in the form of a human embrace. It’s comforting. It just makes you feel good.
Hugging fulfills a basic human need…touch. In fact, when God created you, He hardwired you with a need for touch. Did you realize that in each of your fingertips, there are more than 3,000 receptors for touch? A hug is a loving and gentle form of touch that expresses so many good emotions and feelings to the one who receives it and leave the giver better as well. Scientific evidence suggest that a hug actually improves health, mental activity, reduces stress and depression, increases happiness, and results in a measurable improvement in overall performance when it comes to work, play, and education. Plus…it’s free, it’s quick, and it’s easy!
The Lord has blessed our home with three amazing children, all of which are currently teenagers. Over the years as they have grown up, they have each gone through various stages where their level of acceptance of and expression of love towards me has varied. When our middle child was a toddler, no matter how hard I tried or how lovingly I asked…she absolutely refused to give her daddy a kiss. I knew she loved me…but truthfully…it broke my heart. I loved her so much, enough that I would willingly die so that she might live…yet…she resisted expressing her love for me in a way I so desperately desired to receive it.
More recently, our youngest, is in a stage where she gives you one of those “kinda” hugs. Not necessarily disengaged…but certainly not "all in" either. It’s kinda like trying to hug someone on the end of a taunt bungie cord. Only days ago, I pulled her in close and endeavored to give her a great big hug and immediately her arms went limp and I could feel her torso tug in resistence to my embrace. Oh…I love here so much….and I’m grateful she at least somewhat is willing to receive my embrace…BUT…what I wouldn’t give to have my embrace returned with her own. For a father (and a mother), there is nothing quite like the loving hug…the warm embrace…the affectionate expression of love in the form of the arms of your child wrapped around you. I love it when my kids hug me.
Psalm 2:10 (The Message) empassionately emplores us to, “Worship God in adoring embrace.”
Did you realize you can hug God? Your Heavenly Father loves it when you embrace Him?
As an earthly father, I love giving my kids hugs. But…I’m just going to be real honest…there is something extra special when one of my children gives me a hug. Recently my 19 year old son has given me several hugs that have meant more to me than he will ever know. I love giving a hug…but receiving one from Parker, Taylor, or Bailey is on an entirely different realm of incredible. I can’t help but think that since we were created in God’s image, He must share those very same feelings.
When is the last time you really gave your Heavenly Father a great big hug? Is your embrace something He regularly experiences? During the week or as you worship with your church family…how expressive is your love towards Him? Is it passionate or passionless? Are you leaning in or pulling away? If someone were to observe you as you worshipped, could they describe what they witnessed as a loving expressive embrace?
Allow me to encourage you to begin to lean in. Let your love for Him be expressive and visibly evident. Squeeze. Crawl up in His lap. Lean in. Embrace. Love. Yes…He will keep on hugging you regardless of whether or not it’s equally recipricated. That’s what loving fathers do…and He’s the best! But the truth is…He really loves to get hugs too. Get in the habit of hugging God. There is a whole other level of incredible to be experienced when you do!
May 21, 2018
I awoke to a world filled with fog. In a sense it’s absolutely beautiful. But if you need to see very far into the distance, it’s anything but beautiful. Every time I awake to a foggy morning like today, I am reminded of a trip we took years ago, through the mountains, on scenic Highway 71, between Fayetteville and Van Buren, Arkansas. Today there is a beautiful interstate connecting the two cities, that wasn’t the case when I was a child. There was basically one route everyone had to take and it led you through the Boston Mountains of the Ozarks. If you haven’t traveled it, it’s a breathtakingly beautiful drive as you follow the curving road that snakes through the stunning scenery. Of course if you’re traveling at night, it’s just a curvy road. Add fog to the experience and it’s a nightmare. You see, for significant stretches of the trip, there really isn’t anyplace to pull off the road. On this particular night, I can clearly remember how clouded the visibility became. As we started the trip, the sky was crystal clear, but midway through, it got to the point where you couldn’t see the end of the hood of the car that night. I’ve never seen fog so dense. Not being able to see the road, my father was forced to crack open his door in hopes of being able to see the painted center line, as he gingerly continued to endeavor to get us safely to our destination. The fog slowed us down and kept us from seeing any further than the middle of the hood of our car. You had no real idea what lie ahead.
James 4:14 asks us, “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
Two thoughts for you today:
(1) Make Your Plans But Hang On To Them Loosely (Write them down in pencil).
James says we have no idea what our life will be like tomorrow. We don’t know what lies ahead! Knowing that, while it’s certainly good, noble, and wise to plan and to set goals…don’t set those goals without God’s input. Don’t leave God out of your planning sessions. The future is in His hands. Certainly, by all means, as yourself, “What do I want to be doing ten years from now? One year from now? Tomorrow?” Don’t be careless…do just float through life. But, as you ask those questions, don’t forget to ask yourself this question as well, “What if God steps into my life and rearranges my plans?” Proverbs 16:9 says that, “We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 19:21 tells us that although we make our plans it is, “the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” That shouldn’t shake you or upset you. Why? Because no matter how well you plan…regardless of how amazing your plans might be…God’s plans always surpass our plans in excellence. In Jeremiah 29:11 God tells you, “I know the plans I have for you…they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope!”
So, go ahead an plan…and as you do, commit those plans to the Lord, “and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)
(2) Live for God TODAY
Life is short regardless of how many years you are blessed to live. My grandfather will soon be 101 years old, yet his life is merely a speck on eternity’s time line.
It’s natural to feel as though there will always be more time…but tomorrow isn’t promised. The Psalmist prayed, Lord, “Teach us to number our days and to recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalm 90:12 Living Bible)
Life is a gift. Every breath is a blessing. Today is precious. Don’t fall into the trap of believing there will always be time to live for Jesus. Don’t assume the calendar is still filled with days left to enjoy the ones you love the most. Don’t make the mistake of delaying to do or to say what you should do or say today. Live for God…love Him and love others today, because, regardless of how many years you are blessed to live, “your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, and then it’s gone.”
By the way, I just looked out my window and the morning fog I woke to has disappeared…it’s gone.
C.T. STUDD wrote the following and I leave it with you in hopes it will inspire and motivate you to seize the day God has given you!
Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
On behalf of the American people, WELCOME HOME! pic.twitter.com/hISaCI95CB— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2018
May 10, 2018
This morning around 2AM (EST), three American men, Kim Dong-Chul, Kim Has-Song, and Tony Kim, walked off an airplane and stood on American soil once again after having been held captive in North Korea. All three men had been prisoners in North Korea's notoriously brutal prison camps after being arrested for what North Korea called, "anti-state offenses."
According to Amnesty International and the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea: Roughly 200,000 souls currently call North Korean prison camp home. Over 400,000 souls have died while serving a penalty of hard-labor in these bastions of evil and suffering.
The accounts of former prisoners suggest that nearly a quarter of the total prison camp population dies each and every year. Starvation is a common experience shared amongst those who tragically find themselves imprisoned. Most prisoners end up having to eat rats and insects just to survive. Due to the lack of protein, the harsh conditions, and the grueling labor, prisoners often develop health issues at a young age that would normally impact the elderly. It is common for prison guards to abuse, beat, and execute prisoners for their own perverted entertainment. One escapee reported having been tortured by being hung upside down by his ankles over a blazing fire. It is said that most prisoners who find themselves captives in one of these camps never expect to escape and welcome death as the only exit from their misery.
Can you imagine the overwhelming relief, joy, and absolute exhilaration these three men must be feeling today? Yesterday they were captives...today they are free men!
Jesus declared in Luke 4:18 - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free."
A captive is someone who is bound, dominated, ensnared, or enslaved. Their movement is restricted to a confined space. Picture the plight of a prisoner or the hopeless and harassed hostage.
Most often when we imagine those in captivity, we think of those in literal, physical bondage. But the sad reality is that many people everywhere suffer an equally tragic form of captivity. Bound to life controlling habits, attitudes, fears, unhealthy relationships, emotions, addictions, and the like. They are bound, dominated, ensnared, and enslaved. Their life is limited...confined by what controls them. Most have made countless attempts in their own power and ability to escape....often thinking they've successfully slipped from the chains that had bound them...and evaded their captor once and for all...only to eventually find themselves once again endeavoring to free themselves still once more from the same prison they'd thought they'd escaped. As a result they end up filled with frustration and emptied of hope. It's a vicious defeating cycle. But in and through Jesus there is hope!
Jesus came to set the captives free because those who were help captives couldn't free themselves. That includes you and it includes me. He proclaimed that, "captives will be released!" He came to set you free from the prison you may find yourself in. He came to liberate you from the chains that have bound you!
When He does (and He will!), life takes on a whole new meaning! You begin to enjoy and experience life...abundant and full!
Can I encourage you with this? You may find yourself captive...bound...a prisoner to some issue of life that has controlled you and for which escape has evaded you. You've experienced a limited life and limited joy. You've been dominated, ensnared, and enslaved long enough! Right where you are...there is no time like the present...ask Jesus to set you free once and for all! He is faithful to fulfill His Word! He is a promise keeper! If you will ask Him...He will answer. You may have woken today as a prisoner...but thanks to JESUS...you can go to bed tonight a free man or woman. Unlimited possibilities, unrestrained joy, uninhibited access to the only One with the power to set you free!
May 7, 2018
I should probably be ashamed of this, but it's the truth: I love watching people fall. Over the years, I've watched a healthy diet of the show America's Funniest Videos (AFV). Without question, nothing makes me laugh harder during that hour than seeing people take a nose dive and face plant. Yesterday afternoon, if someone had been filming it, I would have been the star of the show.
Following our Sunday morning worship service, our family hosted a group of 11 students and four adults at our house for a cook-out and a time of playing games. It was a beautiful day and after the group made quick through 44 hot-dogs, we decided to head outside and have some fun. Yours truly, age 47, decided to join them.
Game number one: Corn Hole. Smooth sailing so far. Nothing more than throwing a few oversized bean bags into a hole located 21 feet away. A leisurely 45 minutes of whipping people 25-30 years younger than myself. Not gonna lie...it felt good.
Game number two: Kickball. Now, you have to understand, this was and is my all-time favorite school recess game. In grade school, my friends and I played kickball every day. We took is seriously...even made team I.D. cards. I'm pretty sure we were the 1981-82, 4th grade champs at Disney Elementary in Springfield, Missouri.
So, when the students this past Sunday suggested kickball, I was all in! One problem though: in my mind it was 4th grade all over again, but from a physical standpoint, I was still 47. Not only that, before the game, one student, who shall go unnamed, was sure to complement me on the "Dad Bod" I've developed over the years. Oh man...if ever there was motivation to show these youngsters I still had a thing or two...this was it.
Three innings into the game and things had gone pretty well. These kids were good and I'd managed to get on base a time or two myself. The game was tied at seven when the team I found myself on took the field one last time.
Standing in right field, I watched as a girl or two and maybe even some weak-legged excuse for a boy took their turn at bat. Right field is and always has been boring as far as I'm concerned. So far, this was proving to be the case on this occasion. Things were about to change. I watched as our savvy pitcher masterfully propelled the ball cavorting towards home plate. Just enough bounce...just enough smoothness. BOOM! The student made contact and it was a sight to behold. Leaving his foot the ball launched seemingly into the stratosphere...headed my direction. Watching the now tiny black dot in the sky...I quickly endeavored to speed to the spot I was hurriedly calculating the ball would ultimately arrive back to earth. I ran with all the might this 47 year old body could still muster...being sure to keep my head up and eyes on the ball as the tiny black speck grew larger on it's descent. I was getting ready to complete kickball's version of a Ken Griffey Jr. catch. It's was almost back to earth and in my arms when out of nowhere, the ground suddenly gave way. I had forgotten about the steep downward slope which resided at the farthest reaches of the ball field. Eyes still on the ball, I immediately surmised that the grassy field was going to rudely be introduced to my flailing torso. Sure enough, this Pastor plummeted to the pitch...leaving the ball to safely return to earth and roll into a cooling bath in the creek still beyond me.
Falling, I could see the ground, as though in slow motion, preparing to greet me. Quickly, I endeavored to go into a roll rather than using my face to cushion my fall. Success! First to meet the ground was my left knee and then the rest of me followed it's lead. I felt like laying there awhile. No, I felt like crawling into a hole. In one swoop...with one thunderous kick...I found myself hurting...body as well as my pride. But laying there wasn't an option. So...I got up...embarrassingly retrieved the ball...and made my way back into the field of play trying to play it as cool as was possible considering what had just happened. I was bruised, humbled, and more ready for a break than the invitation to join the students in a game of volleyball.
As I reflected on the events above, I was reminded of Proverbs 24:16.
Proverbs 24:16 - "Though a righteous person falls seven times, they will get back up."
Every single one of us, regardless of how long we have served the Lord, regardless of past successes, regardless of our expertise...we will stumble...we will tumble...and we will bumble. Try as we might (and we certainly should try our best)...We'll blow it. We are going to make mistakes. There will be decisions we shouldn't have made. Why? We're human. We're not perfect. It's not a question of whether or not we will fall...it's what we do after we fall that is so important.
Christian friend, let me encourage you: you may have blown it...you may have made choices that you regret...you may have stumbled in your walk with Christ. Don't wallow in what you've done. Refuse to rehearse your regretful choices. GET BACK UP! Never let a stumble or a tumble be the end of your journey. Proverbs 24:16 isn't an invitation to live carelessly or practice messy morality. Rather, it's encouragement for the imperfect person who is genuinely endeavoring to live a life that honors Christ.
If you've made Jesus the Lord of your life then...you're righteousness is credited to you through your faith in Jesus Christ...not by any effort of your own. Do your very best to live a life that is marked by faithfulness and obedience to God's Word! And if you stumble...remember: "Though a righteous person falls seven times, they will get back up!" So on your feet soldier! You may have fallen...it's time to get back up!
May 1, 2018
The phrase “you are what you eat” was first used in English in the 1920’s and 30’s. The earliest known use of the phrase is from a print advertisement for beef in the 1923 edition of the Bridgeport Telegraph for United Meet (yes, that’s the way they spelled it) Markets’: “Ninety percent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.”
In 1942, Victor Lindlahr, a strong believer in the idea that food controls health, and developer of the Catabolic Diet, published, “You Are What You Eat: how to win and keep health with diet.” His book seems to be the rocket ship that launched this phrase into our venacular orbit.
The idea that what we put into our bodies impacts our health has been a core belief in civilization long before the phrase “you are what you eat” became popular. The ancient Aztecs would eat the brains of their enemies because they believed it would give them the wisdom and knowledge of those who were against them. Some cultures won’t eat onions or garlic because they believe it causes agressive behavior. Let me tell you…they’re missing out!
Someone has said, “If you are what you eat, then I’d like to order something rich.” Based upon my own diet, if I am what I eat, I’m most certainly beginning to resemble a bag of potato chips.
This past January, my family, along with others from our church, participated in what we referred to as 21 DAYS OF HUNGER. It was a time of changing our intake to improve our health…physically and most importantly spiritually. Looking back, it was amazing how much more healthy I felt, how much more energy I had, and how much more restful my sleep was during that time. I felt great! But better yet…those 21 DAYS OF HUNGER kick-started me spiritually. I spent more time in prayer. I spent more time with my church family. I was intentional about increasing the time I spent in praise and in studying Scripture. I didn’t just change my physical diet…I changed my spiritual intake as well. The result: my spirit was refreshed, renewed, and re-energized. Why? Because you are what you eat! What are you eating?
Like me, you probably have a Netflix Diet. You have an Internet Diet. You have a Sports Diet. We take all kinds of things in, don’t we? Now let me ask you, how’s your spiritual diet? You are what you eat.
This past Sunday, we had the wonderful blessing of having a young man in our worship service who has recently entered the ministry of Teen Challenge. He’s been there for the past two months. Before entering Teen Challenge this young man’s diet was different. But how many know that it’s possible to change our diet? Two months ago…this young man began feasting on different things. Sunday provided evidence that he has changed his intake. He hasn't just been "snacking" on better things either. No way! He's regularly feeding on things that benefit His spirit. He no longer has access to what he had been taking in. His entire spiritual diet has changed and incredibly…in two months time…in his own words, “I’m not the same person I was two months ago.” He’s proof positive that: You are what you eat.
I’m reminded of the story about an Old Cherokee who told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside of people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil and the other is good.” The grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee Grandpa replied, “Whichever one you feed.”
Which wolf are you feeding? Regardless of who we are, where we are from, whatever our background may be…we are all continually feeding either our flesh or our spirit. Everything we do feeds one or the other.
In John 6, Jesus uses the illustration of eating to express the importance of feeding our spirit. In verse 27, He says, “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.” He goes on to say in verse 57 that, “Anyone who feeds on Me will live!” His statement assumes we might possibly feed on something other than Him. Whatever “other things” we might feed on will leave us hungry. But there’s good news! It’s what the young man who was home from Teen Challenge has discovered for himself! Feeding on Christ and the things of God bring life to our spirit! You are what you eat!
Let me encourage you to take a good hard look at your diet and then to make the necessary adjustments to assure your spirit is growing and thriving. Learning to eat well can be a struggle initially. Our taste have to change. But it’s better to discipline yourself to eat well to today than to end up suffering the consequences of a life spent feeding on junk food.
Your taste can change! Studies show that our taste are conditioned through habits. We don’t lose our taste for things overnight. We also don’t acquire a taste for things immediately. Eating healthy takes planning and discipline. It’s not as convenient or as quick as junk food. But taste preferences change as we stick with it and experience the positive changes our new diet brings.
So…let me invite you today to begin to “taste and see” for yourself, that “…the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8) After all…YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!
April 27, 2018
Eight point four steps. According to "www.kylesconverter.com", that's the number of steps it takes the average individual to walk a distance of seven yards. Chris Norton is anything but average.
For Chris Norton, seven yards might as well be seven miles. On October 16, 2010, just weeks into his first year at Luther College in Deborah, Iowa, Chris suffered a spinal cord injury when he mistimed a play on the football field.
As a hush hovered in the stadium, Chris realized that as hard as he tried, he couldn't move. Attempting to push himself up off the ground but accomplishing nothing, he remembers praying, "Please God, let me just get up and walk off the field." Instead, Chris left the field on a stretcher and was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It didn't take long for doctors to determine he'd fractured his C3-C4 vertebrae, leaving him with a three percent chance of ever having movement below the neck.
That was the moment Chris Norton decided he was going to be a part of the three percent.
The first year of rehabilitation was especially strenuous. But with the help and encouragement of those he loved, he won back enough of the strength he had lost and was able to return to college with the use of a wheelchair in 2011.
In 2013, he met Emily Summers via an online dating site. She was attending Iowa State University and shared Norton's strong faith in Jesus Christ.
Chris and Emily had an immediate bond. They just clicked. Before long Norton expressed to that he wished to work towards increasing his strength enough to be able to, with her assistance, make his way across the stage to receive his diploma in 2015 without the use of his wheelchair. When that day came...Chris's dream came true...as the 3000 in attendance roared their approval. But wait...it gets better! The night before graduation, Chris asked Emily to be his wife. Newly engaged Chris and Emily now set a new goal. To walk down the aisle at their wedding.
Fast forward to April 21, 2018. Eight years after having been told he would never walk again, Chris, after having kissed his bride, walked the seven yards arm in arm with Emily as the crowd of 200 officially welcomed them as Mr. & Mrs. Chris and Emily Norton.
People magazine, did a wonderful feature article on the couple. In it, Chris reminds us all, "Anything is possible if you don't give up." (You can view a nearly 20 minute feature video about Chris and Emily which People Magazine produced by clicking here).
Life...for all it's great moments can sure provide some difficult moments as well. Life can be hard. Some of us have been crippled...paralized from the circumstances that have hit us. Shoot...some of us have been beamed upside the head by a fastball we weren't prepared for. What do you do when life leaves you lame?
(1) Find Your Peace In Jesus. There is a temptation to find peace and answers in a multitude of available sources. Certainly take advantage of some of them...but be careful that your source of peace isn't found in a system instead of your Savior. Jesus said, "In me you may have (and find) peace. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. [Now there's a promise we've all seen fulfilled!] But take heart because I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
(2) Remember Jesus Cares About What You're Going Through. In your darkest of days, Jesus understands...He knows how you feel. (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus can relate to your pain. But that's not where he leaves you. Not only does he relate...He cares! He chooses to be close to the brokenhearted! (Psalm 34:18) You are never closer to Jesus than in the midst of your troubles! He's there...He cares...And He is able!
(3) Don't quit. In Galatians 6:9, the Apostle Paul, a man who saw his fair share of difficulties in life, spurs us on in the midst of our difficulties. You can almost hear his weathered voice cheering us on. Don't lose heart! Don't grow weary! Persevere! Don't lose faith! Keep believing! Keep at it! You're almost through this! God has heard your prayers! Stay faithful! Keep moving forward! Don't give up...what you've been hoping for...your reward is just another 7 yards further! You can do it! Anything is possible if you don't give up!
April 25, 2018
Psalm 55:18 - "I am attacked from all sides, but You will rescue me unharmed by the battle."
Most golfers are hoping for a few birdies or maybe even an eagle in their round, but certainly not the variety of flying fowl golfer Isaac Couling and members of his Concord High School golf team experienced April 21, 2018.
Isaac's team was competing in a tournament at Wolf Creek Golf Course in Adrian, Michigan. Having just finished teeing off on the seventh hole, Couling was walking down the fairway when he was attacked by a large and very angry and protective Canadian goose.
Isaac and the rest of his foursome were certain they hadn't gotten too close to a goose nest they had been made aware of. They were careful to keep their distance, but it seems Couling must have gotten too close for the goose to ignore.
Without warning, the goose was on the warpath. A surprise attack had been successfully launched. The goose gave chase to the , caught completely off guard, Isaac Couling, who was suddenly on the run!
Running with a full golf bag can be challenging. It wasn't long into his attempted escape that Isaac, goose bearing down, tumbled to the ground and his bag went flying, leaving a defenseless Couling at the mercy of Mother Goose. The main thing Couling recalls is that, "no one came to help."
Happily Couling survived, his pride more wounded than anything. And in case you were wondering, he parred the hole.
There isn't a person alive who doesn't experience being under attack. Now, I think it's pretty safe to say that I doubt you will ever be attacked by a goose, but without question, you will experience attack. You will be unfairly criticized. People may be dead set against you. Hostile even. They may attempt to pass blame your direction, slander your name or reputation, or destroy everything you work so hard to accomplish. They may say one thing to your face with a smile, and then attack you once you walk away. They'll look for a moment of weakness and let loose attempting to knock you down.
Most people you encounter are pretty great. Find those people, surround yourself with those people, celebrate those people! But there are always those who simply make life a whole lot less fun and a lot more difficult. It's part of life. There will be days, when, like Isaac Couling, you're caught completely off guard by the proverbial goose attack. But I want to remind you that when the attack comes, unlike Couling, you won't be left to fight alone.
Psalm 18:18 - "They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me."
Psalm 27:3 - "Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident."
2 Timothy 4:18 - "The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into His heavenly Kingdom."
April 24, 2018
When I was growing up, the farthest distance I could imagine was the planet Pluto. Pluto has been reclassified as a dwarf planet, but Pluto will always be a full blown planet to this guy. Pluto is 2.6 billion miles away from earth...give or take a few miles.
Our family enjoys a good road trip. We like to explore. We like to visit new places. Last year we purchased a "new-to-us" Toyota Prius. It's been a great car, especially for getting great gas milage on the road trips we like to take. With this in mind, I got to thinking about driving our Toyota Prius to Pluto. Assuming traffic was light and we could find enough gas stations and restaurants along the way...here is what I came up with:
These figures didn't decrease my motivation to make this trip. However, two deciding factors did: (1) We weren't really sure what to pack, (2) and considering the limited number of rest stops along the way, you'd definitely need a bladder of steel.
As fun as it might be to think this ridiculous process through...even if it was possible...once we arrived on Pluto...we'd have only begun to see the universe.
NASA recently released a stunning virtual tour of the Lagoon Nebula. Now I'll admit, when I first read the headline I thought maybe that was the location Gilligan and his friends ended up after their tiny ship was tossed. Come to find out...it's an entirely different thing all together.
The Lagoon Nebula is a giant interstellar cloud in the constellation Sagattarius. I'm not sure exactly what that means...but I do know it's a long ways away. To be exact, it's over 4000 light years away!
A light year is the distance light can travel in the span of 1 year. Light can travel at an incredible 186,000 miles per second. If you could travel at the speed of light, you could travel around earth's equator 7.5 times in 1 second! A light year is about 5.88 trillion miles. If you were able to travel at the speed of light, it would take you over 4000 years to arrive at Lagoon Nebula...and you'd still barely have seen the universe.
A friend of mine, who happens to be one of our nations top mathematicians, and an exceptional astronomer, recently suggested to me that the single most difficult command to obey that was ever given in Scripture was when God told Abraham to "count the stars." (Genesis 15:5)
The Universe is estimated to contain three hundred sextillion stars. What? I can't even begin to fathom that big of a number. Yet each night when I look up into the sky...our universe has that many stars twinkling back at me. Now, get this, God created these stars using nothing but His voice. Not only did He create them...He took the time to name all three hundred sextillion of them!
Psalm 147:4 says, "He counts the stars and calls them all by name!"
Psalm 19:1 - "The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship!"
Stuart Hamblen, America's first "singing cowboy", wrote a song entitled, "How Big Is God?" This old cowboy got it right when he penned the following lyrics:
Though man may strive to go beyond the reach of space
To crawl beyond the distant shimmering stars
This world's a room so small within my Master's house
The open sky's but a portion of His yard
How big is God?
How big and wide His vast domain?
To try and tell, these lips can only start
He's big enough to rule His mighty universe
Yet small enough to live within my heart
God's greatness is overwhelming! Yet...we've only scraped the surface! You see, the universe is continually expanding! In fact, in 2016, NASA determined it is expanding 9% faster than anyone had ever expected! Wow! Can I just remind you that we serve a BIG and POWERFUL God! He lives within your heart! He is with you everywhere you go! Always by your side! Consistent! Faithful! Never wavering! He never gets sick! He never grows tired! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! If He can speak the universe into existence...a universe that continues to expand...and keep it functioning in perfect sync...then He is more than able to do exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond anything you could ever dream or imagine! He can surely handle anything that ever comes your way!
So be encouraged! Look up! The God of the universe is with you today! Rest in Him!
April 23, 2018
This past Friday, I visited a Christian bookstore and came across the book you see in the picture above. "Will the World End in 2012?" Funny this book is still on the shelf in 2018, six years later. I guess we know the answer.
Every few years someone someplace comes out with a prediction of a specific date or time period which they claim the rapture will take place. In fact, numerologist David Meade, has predicted that today, April 23, 2018 will be that day.
With each prediction, gullible people everywhere are deceived. Don't be one of them.
Might I suggest a few things to consider in light of these predictions?
(1) Only GOD the Father Knows
Jesus told us in Matthew 24:36, "No one knows the day or hour. The angels in heaven don't know, and the Son Himself doesn't know. Only the Father knows."
Anytime you hear someone say the rapture will take place on a certain date or certain time, run from that voice. It's a lie. Bogus. Don't even listen. Don't be deceived.
(2) Don't Let It Consume You
There is no question that end time events are an interesting study. But sometimes people can become so overly interested in what's to come that they become completely unfruitful in the here and now.
Jesus said, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4)
Carpe Diem! Seize the Day! You can't seize the day if you're overly focused on tomorrow.
(3) The Date Isn't What Matters
While we are certainly instructed to be aware of the times and that there are obvious "signs" that should trigger us to the fact that the time we are living in could very well be the last days before Christ returns for His church...all the dates...all the times...all the signs aren't really what our focus and energy should be poured into.
Jesus spoke to His disciples about His return in Matthew 24. Jesus mentioned some signs regarding the future but His emphasis was on the importance of remaining watchful.
Matthew 24:42 - "You, too, must keep watch!"
Matthew 24:44 - "You must be ready all the time."
The issue isn't when...the issue is, "Are you ready?"
Nobody knows when Jesus will return. We do know that He will! Our focus must be on our own readiness and helping to make sure others are prepared as well.
One day it will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye! The Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And when that trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to life forever! And we who are living will also be transformed! Our dying bodies will be transformed into bodies that will never die and we will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air! Then we will be with the Lord forever! (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 & 1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
April 19, 2018
Until a few moments ago, I was unaware that today is "National High Five Day." Is it just me or do we seem to have a day for pretty much everything? Anyhow...today seems as good of a day as any to celebrate the high five! Who doesn't love a high five?
In my lifetime, I've had the pleasure of enjoying a miriad of hand gestures. (There are a few I've experienced that weren't very nice). I've been given: fist-bumps, low fives, side fives, down low, in the hole, too slow fives. All pale in comparison to the high five. It's the cream of the crop. The piece de resistance. The showpiece of hand gestures. The magnum opus. The standard...the masterstroke of genius. It's a pat on the back in the sky! (Okay...perhaps I'm exaggerating...but it really is pretty awesome!)
Since 2002, the third Thursday of April is recognized as "National High Five Day." The day was founded by a group of students from the University of Virginia. According to it's organizers, it is "a 24-hour period for giving familiars and strangers alike as many high fives as humanly possible." You gotta love it!
It's pretty amazing how a simple hand gesture...putting your hand over your head and slapping the elevated hand of another person has revolutionized the way Americans and people all over the world celebrate everything from personal successes to Super Bowl victories.
There is a lot of debate about who invented the High Five. Some attribute it to Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders, Glenn Burke & Dusty Baker after Burke hit a homer during a game in 1977. Others give credit to the 1978-79 Louisville basketball team. Nobody really knows for sure.
What we do know is the high five is an expression of celebration. You don't give high fives when life stinks. It's almost always a spontaneous expression that overflows from the feelings of happiness and delight we have on the inside. It just feels good to give and to receive! It's an expression of joy. Without words it conveys things like: "Good job!", "Way to go!", "Awesome!", "Congratulations!", "You did it!", "You crushed it!", and so much more.
Did you know heaven gives out high fives as well?
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a story that is often referred to as "The Parable of the Talents." It's a story about three employees who are each entrusted with some of their masters money and asked to use what they've been given to increase his wealth. One of these guys takes the money, digs a hole, and buries it. Needless to say, when the master comes back, he's not pleased with the return on his investment.
But what about the other two guys? In the story we discover that they both took what they had been given and invested it...earning the master a significant increase on his investment. When the master gets back...he takes a look at what these two guys were able to accomplish using the resources he left them with...and the master is thrilled! He looks at these two guys and gives them a verbal high five, "Well done, my good and faithful servant(s)! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things! Come and share your master's happiness!"
Those are the words every Christian hopes to hear from Jesus' lips in heaven one day! It's heaven't high five! In fact...it wouldn't surprise me one bit if when Jesus utters those words, they aren't accompanied with a nail pierced hand raised high...inviting my own to meet His! "Good job! Way to go! Awesome! Congratulations! You did it! I'm so proud of you! You crushed it!"
Can I encourage you to live for heaven's high five? When it's all said and done...it's the only high five that will ever truly matter!
April 18, 2018
Southwest Flight 1380 was en route to Dallas, TX from New York's Laguardia Airport when one of it's engines exploded at 32,000 feet. Shrapnel from the engine shattered a window, tragically killing a passenger and causing the plane to suddenly lose cabin pressure.
Pilot, Tammie Jo Shults, a Christian woman, who happens to have been one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy, was able to safely navigate the Boeing 737, caring 148 other souls, to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia.
As the plane plummeted following the explosion, passengers frantically endeavored to send emails, make calls, or send text messages to loved ones as many assumed those moments were the last moments of their lives. While everyone was understandably "losing it", one amazing lady, Pilot Tammy Jo, Shults, was able to remain calm under pressure. One passenger cited by The Kansas City Star lauded Shults' "nerves of steel."
When the pressure is on...like it so often is...how do we, like Shults, remain "calm under pressure"?
Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!"
Peace is defined as: freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety. Freedom from oppressive thoughts or emotions.
Pressure is defined as: the stress or urgency of matters needing attention. The burden of physical or mental distress.
There are so many amazing verses and promises regarding peace in Scripture. But for the sake of time, let's stay focused on Isaiah 26:3. This one verse gives us two of the most basic principles for keeping your calm when the pressure is on.
(1) Trust God.
Trust is: assured reliance upon the character, ability, strength, power, and truth of someone. In this case it's God. God is entirely trustworthy. No one's character is more consistent. Nobodies ability is more awesome. No one's strength is as stunning. There is no other power so profound. And when it comes to His truth...no truth is more total!
The Psalmist declared, "When I am afraid (when the pressure is on), I will put my trust in You!" (Psalm 31:14)
(2) Fix Your Thoughts On God
When the pressure is on...our minds tend to run wild. Our thought tend to venture to the edges of all possible negative extremes. What was a minor cough becomes a full blown deadly disease in our minds following a 10 minute search on Google.
There is always a battle raging in our minds. It's important that we don't believe everything we think. When the pressure is on...that battle can become increasingly intense. When the pressure is on, the devil will racket up the attack, trying to steal your hope. That's why when the pressure is on, we have to deliberately and purposefully make the choice to fix our thoughts on God.
When we "fix" our thoughts on something we fasten our thinking to one item. It's as though we're using mental superglue. Or like we're a bulldog who refuses to let go of something. Regardless of all the "stuff" that attempts to distract us or cloud our thinking...we make ourselves laser focused on God Almighty....on the Truth of His Word...on His promises...on His love for us. On the One who uses all things causing them to work together for our good!
2 Corinthians 10:5 - "Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ."
When the pressure is on, we literally have to capture every thought. When a negative, fear-filled thought attempts to enter our mind...we have to take it into custody...we have to seize it...we can't allow it to have the freedom to roam in our thought life. Once captured...we willfully fill our minds with thinking that is in line with the Truth of God's Word. Can you see why a regular time in God's Word is so important?
Life is filled with pressure backed moments and seasons. The stress and pressure of daily living is inevitably going to rear it's ugly head. When it does, stay calm under pressure by, (1) continuing to Trust God, and by (2) fixing your thoughts on Him.
Someone has correctly pointed out that pressure can either burst a pipe or pressure can make a diamond. With God on our side...we can remain calm under pressure. No more burst pipes! You're a diamond in the making!
April 17, 2018
Tony Hawk is considered the greatest and most influential professional skateboarder of all time. Nobody argues this fact. By age 12 he had is first professional contract. While still in High School in California, he had earned enough money to purchase his own home. Six Flags Amusement parks have named roller coasters after him. He's been in countless movies and television shows. Sports Illustrated has run feature stories on Tony. He is the face of an entire video game dynasty and owns his own clothing line. Presidents have welcomed him to the White House where he was invited to skate the halls of the Executive Offices. Most recent figures show Tony Hawk's net worth to be upwards of $140 million.
With all of this in mind...imagine what took place this past Sunday when Tony Hawk was exiting a plane at LaGuardia Airport. Tony's twitter account quickly tells the story:
Woman on plane retrieving her luggage in the overhead:
"Who's skateboard is this? It's blocking my bag"
me: that's mine, you can pass it here
her: "It's yours? You ride it?
her: "Are you any good at it?"
her: cackles maniacally, exits plane – at LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
Most likely, this woman wasn't too interested in skateboarding. She probably didn't frequent the skate park. But that doesn't change the fact that she was in the presence of greatness and didn't even realize it! There she stood, talking to the man who without question has no comparison when it comes to skate boarding...he's in a league of his own...yet she was completely oblivious!
How could she be so stupid? Right? Then again, maybe we need to cut this poor lady some slack. After all...she's not the first to be oblivious to greatness.
Genesis 28:10-19 tells the story of Jacob camping at what would eventually become Bethel. While there he has a dream in which he sees a stairway that reached from earth up to heaven. (That's a lot of steps! Who needs a "Stair-master"?!) Angels were ascending and descending using this set of stairs. During this vision, the Lord stands at the top of the stairs and speaks powerful promises over Jacob's life. When Jacob eventually wakes up, he makes an interesting and telling statement, saying, "Surely the Lord was in this place, I wasn't even aware of it!" (v.16)
Jacob had arrived to this place and at least initially been totally and utterly oblivious of God's presence. How could Jacob possibly have missed the incomparable presence of the Almighty Creator of All Things? As great as God is...considering there is no one greater...how does anyone possibly miss God? Jacob sure did. I wonder if we have or do?
Psalm 22:3 speaks of God inhabiting our praise. Inhabit doesn't simply mean God "hangs out" there. It means He resides or takes up residence there! How awesome is that?
In Matthew 18:20, Jesus made the promise that, "Wherever two or three come together in honor of My name, I am right there with them."
Later in Matthew 28:20, Jesus promises that He would be with us, "always", even until the very end! Talk about Good News! Jesus isn't going anywhere! He's never ever ever ever going to leave you!
Are you aware of His presence and if so...do you respond appropriately? Here's the thing...you may not "feel" God's presence, but that doesn't change the fact that His presence is there. He's there with you at work. He's seated with you as you drive. He's in your house. He's there during the tough days as well as the good ones. He is always there. You and I are continually surrounded by Greatness! When I realize this...it's incredibly comforting and confidence building! But it also creates a couple of other feelings inside of me...feelings that I'm thankful I'm feeling. (That's a lot of "feeling").
When I think about what this means...it brings some personal conviction as well as a whole lot of motivation. You see...I've been guilty more times in my life than I care to admit of being in a church worship service and basically being there physically but not in spirit. I was in the very presence of God Almighty and my response was as though I was oblivious to His greatness that Scripture clearly tells me I am always surrounded by. Maybe it was because I was tired. Perhaps I had a whole lot of stuff on my mind. Shoot, sometimes if I'm honest, I simply didn't really want to be there and would have preferred to have been doing something else. Man...that still stings to say (or in this case write). But it's true. Yet another reason to be overwhelmed by God's mercy, grace, patience, and love for me! My past choices (or lack of) don't have to impact the present or future!
What happens is...the conviction I sense regarding the times I haven't responded to God's greatness as He deserves...now motivates me to become more enthusiastically expressive to and in His presence than ever before! I refuse to enter His presence again and allow my response to be as though I'm oblivious to His greatness.
You're in the presence of Greatness! Respond accordingly!
Lord...help me to live with a continual awareness and appreciation for your abiding presence! May the awareness of your presence overflow into every area of my life! Let my worship be an expression not simply of how I'm feeling...but of the fact that regardless of how I may be feeling...YOU ARE WITH ME!
April 16, 2018
Last night, the news show, "60 Minutes" ran a story about Allegiant Airlines. You can watch a portion of it in the video above. Basically, the premise of the piece was that Allegiant Airlines, in order to keep costs and prices low, have been skirting safety issues and cutting corners that ultimately put passengers in danger. According to the report, there have been issues for years that the airline has endeavored to keep hidden. The title "60 Minutes" gave the story is, "FLYING UNDER THE RADAR."
This term started out as a military phrase during the 1950's. Prior to the invention of electronic counter-measures, military aircraft would endeavor to fly beneath the Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) of the enemy in an attempt to avoid being detected by enemy forces.
Today, the phrase is used to describe someone who is attempting to go unnoticed or undetected. They don't want to stand out.
As I watched this news story early this morning, I couldn't help but think of how we all have things / issues in our life that we'd prefer go undetected or unnoticed. We get up each day and, at least in regards to these hidden issues, we pray we can continue to keep "FLYING UNDER THE RADAR."
Here's the problem. In order to keep flying under the radar...you ultimately miss out on soaring to the heights God would love for you to enjoy.
When I talk about flying under the radar, I'm not necessarily referencing hidden sin, although that quite often is the case. However, there are many of us who have hidden dreams, talents, hopes, etc., that we keep under the radar as well because of our lack of confidence or fear.
Whatever the issue, there's a really good chance you can keep flying under the radar when it comes to the majority of people you encounter. But what about God? Let's look at a few verses that give us some insight when it comes to trying to fly under God's Radar.
Psalm 69:5 - "O God, You know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from You."
Mark 4:22 - "For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light."
Hebrews 4:13 - "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God."
Psalm 139 - Conveys perhaps better than any chapter in Scripture that God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present all the time!
You know, it's kinda sad, when we read verses such as these, we tend to automatically read them with a negative perspective. Why? Because everyone of us is guilty. Everyone of us has things in our life that we are not proud of. We're ashamed of these things. So, when we read that they are not hidden from God, we immediately read it as negative, because in truth, we love God and are disappointed in ourselves.
While passages like these ought to certainly challenge us to live lives free from sin...they also ought to add fuel to our expectations for great things to come! Not everything that is hidden is negative. Buried treasure for instance! No one has ever found hidden treasure and been disappointed! That being said, there are some amazing things God has planned...things that are currently "hidden" from us. Someday, these things will be brought to light!
So here's the question the "60 Minutes" news story has lead us to: Are you attempting to "fly under the radar" in any area of your life? If it's a talent, skill, or ability...don't keep hiding it! Let God use it! If it's a sin issue, it's time to confess it to God and repent. Sin is so heavy. Trying to carry it and fly to the heights God has for us is an impossibility. Time to unload it and leave it behind.
First John 1:9 says that if we will confess our sins, God is faithful and just and He will forgive us of our sins. There isn't a single sin issue any of us carry with us...that we have to keep carrying. Carrying it is a choice. Lay it down!
Psalm 32:3-5 says, "When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night Your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt (fly under the radar). I said to myself, 'I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.' And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone!
Confession is a choice to stop flying under the radar and instead to soar to new heights. Confession frees us to see and experience things that had been beyond our reach.
When you or I choose to stop flying under the radar something incredible takes place! When I confess my secrets to God...He begins conveying His secrets to me!
God Himself has said in Jeremiah 33:3, "Ask Me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know." There's nothing negative about that!
Stop flying so low! It's time to soar!