When I was a junior at Asbury College, I was sucked in by a boring evening. I got this bright idea to load 6 guys up in my Jeep Wrangler, and go down to the Dix Dam on the Kentucky River. For those of you that don't know where this is, it is just below High Bridge outside of Wilmore. Now I can't recall if the stupid idea was established before we packed ourselves like sardines in that Jeep, or when we arrived, either way it happened. We were full of adrenaline and had a point to prove. Nothing could hold us back.
When we got down to the dam, we jumped into the water. Not the smartest thing to do with the currents, not to mention the unknown depth of the water. We didn't care, we were bound and determined that we were going to swim across the Kentucky River. Of course, since it was just woods on the other side, we had no plan for getting back. Halfway across, we started to become weary. From the shore looking out, it sure didn't look that far across. All of a sudden our trip was halted. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a speed boat coming towards us at full speed ahead. We panicked and turned back to where we had come from. Just as we didn't realize how far it was across, we also could not estimate how far the speed boat was from us.
The question that I have asked myself for the last 15 years is, "Why in the world did I turn back? We were halfway across the river, and could have just as easily pushed forward." I now know the answer, but it didn't dawn on me then. When in times of crisis, instinctively we turn back to our comfort zone. I knew the path that it took to get me to the middle of the river, I didn't know the other half of the river. I knew that I had transportation on the previous shore, I had none on the following shore. I know that it sounds corny, but I regret not swimming all the way across the river that day. I also found it interesting that whomever started the dissent backwards, every other guy followed him.
Life is full of crises and times of the unknown. The question is whether or not you are going to retreat at the first sign of trouble. Ephesians 6 says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, so that means that we are in a Spiritual War daily. In the 80's Twila Paris had a song entitled, "The Warrior is a Child." How many of us feel like a child in battle at times? It is easy to take that first leap into the water when everything seems to be going well, but easier yet to retreat at the first sign of defeat. Jesus says in Luke 9:62 "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
We should never live in regret, but should always move forward. We should have a sign engraved on our forehead that says, "Retreat is not an Option." Although it was probably stupid to begin with, one day I am bound and determined that I am going to swim across that river and back...
Ever since I was a little boy, my mom used to read Ephesians 6 to me out of the Bible. This passage talks about Spiritual Warfare. Here is what it says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (This is in the NIV, even though I learned it in the King James Version)
Ever since I can remember, I have prayed the following prayer every day: Lord right now I put on the full armor of God:
1) The Helmet of Salvation.
2) The Breast-Plate of Righteousness.
3) The Sword of the Spirit.
4) The Shield of Faith.
5) Loins Girded up with the Belt of Truth.
6) Feet Shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.
7) The Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness.
8) Praying without Ceasing.
I encourage each one of you to spiritually put this armor on every day. It is essential to your survival. Remember that just because you have a sword in hand, does not mean that you know how to wield it. Satan is looking for any holes in your armor, so it must be a package deal. If you are feeling discouraged and depressed, put some worship music on to battle against that spirit of heaviness. If you are taking on fiery darts from the evil one, then grab your shield of faith. Etc...
I can tell you that praying this prayer daily will not just arm you. You must take the necessary means to accomplish this. There is no substitute for reading the Bible and having the Lord speak to you...
Have you ever wondered why there are people that don't like you? The secret is out...Nobody is going to be liked by everybody! I used to really be torn up about this. I couldn't understand why people would not like me, when I was so "Likeable." If I knew that somebody did not like me, it used to rock my world. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night, I would worry all day about what that person was thinking of me. Still to this day, I will call somebody after a conversation to make sure that something wasn't interpreted incorrectly.
Have you ever heard the term, "You have to have tough skin?" Politicians immediately come to mind. It is nearly impossible that you find everybody agreeing with somebody. I am actually happy that we don't. It is crucial to have a system of checks and balances of accountability. The concept of having tough skin is that you don't let sharp cuts and objects penetrate you in order for them to hurt. I like that concept, but I have to admit, I want to be more like a duck. A duck has feathers that are waterproof. The water just runs right off of them. I am not there yet, but praying daily that God shows me how to let things run off of me, that are intended to harm me.
I have found the following passage in the Bible to be quite intriguing. I Peter 4: 12--19 says, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And, If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? 19So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
There is a difference between being persecuted for Christ, and being a JERK!!! Do not mistake the two. We are cautioned all throughout the Bible to preserve our integrity and character through our witness. I happen to have an Ichthus fish on the back of my car. If I cut somebody off in traffic, then my witness could be shot. I have heard people say that you shouldn't put those on the back of your car, as it will tarnish the name of Jesus. That is true, only if you are determined to live in your old ways. I am not. I am a new creation in Christ, old things have passed away, and all things become new.
Be aware that people are not going to like Jesus living inside of you. They will not tolerate and put up with His light shining through you. Just make sure that it is Him that they do not like, and not because you are a Jerk...
Corporate America is all about the numbers. You can be a "Super-Star" one day, and mediocre another. We have been so programmed to Sell, Sell, Sell, that sometimes we forget what we are selling. At one former employer of mine, they had emblazened on the computer screen, "What Have you sold Today?" it didn't matter what you had done yesterday, but only what you were doing for them today.
It is hard to keep up in this kind of driven society. We always feel like we have to have bigger and better. Many of us have formerly or currently bought into the "American Dream." That dream as outlined by so many people is simply, "He who has the most toys wins." This is not what describes me, or how I want to be labeled in life. To many, it is buying that bigger house, RV, Boat, Hunting Equipment, Luxurious Vacation, etc... It is not that there is anything wrong with any of those things, it is just that you have to evaluate the cost in which they were purchased. I am not talking about tangible money in order to purchase them, but rather the stress that maybe it put on your marriage and family. Did you have to work 80 hours a week in order to afford it, or did you merely just finance it? Whatever the cost, we have to measure the outcome. I choose to lead a simple life that involves low stress, then to have a lavish life that comes at the cost of my family and time spent without them.
How many people have transferred their mentality in corporate America, into their spiritual walk with The Lord? Many people think that Christianity is Performance Based. They think that it is by works and what you do in life that gets them into Heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." So God is not concerned with what performance that you give Him, or works that you accomplish. He is more concerned with your BELIEF!
My pastor quoted Charles Stanley a couple of Sundays ago. He said it is as if you were 10 stories up in a burning building. The firemen are below with a net ready to catch you. If you jump out of the window, it is "BY FAITH." However, the Faith is not what saves you. It is His GRACE, which is represented by the net below. I have always found the following passage in the Bible to be a little sobering. Matthew 7:21-23 says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
WOW... How many of us are trying to "EARN" our way into heaven, when all we have to do is accept His free Gift of Salvation through Grace. My God is not concerned about what you have sold for Him today. He is not concerned with how many people you have invited to revival at church. He is concerned about you Believing in Him, allowing Him to perfect you into what He would have you be, and to make disciples. Are you willing to change your mindset from corporate America, and accept Jesus for what He is offering you...
Have you ever heard the saying, "Pack your own Parachute?" I had a client in my office last week, and we were talking about words of wisdom. He shared with me several that his mother used to tell him. The one that resounded in my ears was this one. We have all heard different sayings through the years, but this one was chock full of wisdom. Below are a few points I would like to ponder in regards to this:
1) Prepare--It is quite essential to prepare if you plan on going sky diving. I don't think that it makes much sense to board a plane, without a parachute in hand. On the flip side, it is not wise to be holding a parachute in your hand, without it being packed in the pack. Everything has its place. You can't exactly pull the rip cord to open the chute, if it is already opened. Life is like this as well. It is absolutely necessary to be prepared in life. Whether we are talking about Finances, Work, Parenting, or your relationship with your spouse, in one way or another you should be prepared. Flying by the seat of your pants can be painful at times.
2) Take Responsibility--When you are sky diving, it is hard to blame somebody else if your pack doesn't open, if you packed it. As sick as it might sound, if your chute doesn't open, then I doubt you will be around to complain much anyways. Do you take responsibility in your life? I find that so many people are not willing to eat crow with their mistakes. Take responsibility for your actions. If you mess up, admit to it. If you omit information that is crucial, fess up. Whatever the situation might be, take responsibility in life. We see politicians everyday playing the blame game. It is far past time for us to stand up and be the Men and Women that God would have us be.
3) Live with the Consequences--If you do something that has a different outcome than you expected, live with the consequences. Failures in life can make you stronger if you allow them to. The problem is that this society is enabled to believe that it is not their fault. We don't live with the outcome of our decisions. Actually the truth is, we wallow in them more times than not. Divorce is a prime example of this. I hear people tell others all the time "If you are not Happy in your marriage, then get out. Life is too short." What a crock of bull!!! I would rather be working on my marriage and growing in love with my spouse, then out of stupidity think that life is going to be all better if I change spouses. I love my wife dearly and she loves me. Mainly because of the knocks and bruises that we have learned to gain wisdom in over the last 13+ years.
Please remember to pack your own parachute in life. Jesus wants us to Be Ready for His Return. He also wants us to accept responsibility for our actions and BELIEVE in Him. Understand that doing the above two does not mean that life will always be a bed of roses. However, Live your life to the fullest in the decisions that you have made...
In February of 2001, I had an opportunity to go on a Mission trip to El Salvador. This trip was planned on the fly, as it was in response to an earthquake the country had a week before. One day we were cleaning up rubble in this small town from buildings that were falling over. We loaded a flat bed truck with rubble from the demolished buildings, and drove it about five miles out of town to a dump site. While on our way to empty the truck, I passed a site that I will never forget till the day I die. I remember saying out loud to the group, "Now that is a sermon"
Off to the side of the road I saw two El Salvadoran boys holding a sheet. They were taking the sheet and tossing it up in the air. As the freshly picked coffee beans were airborne, all of the weeds, dirt, and twigs would blow away with the wind. Each time they tossed the sheet into the air, the wind would grab hold of everything that was lighter than the coffee beans, and that did not have weight or substance.
In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable of the Wheat and the Tares. I am reminded that even though the wheat is the productive end product that yields results, the tares are the bad dysfunction that sows discord. The interesting fact with this however, is that both are harvested together. There are tares (Weeds) in churches, governments, corporations, etc... When the time comes to harvest the wheat, then the tares are also harvested. It is explained in this passage that the field is not weeded like a garden would be, because the wheat would be in jeopardy of being uprooted prematurely. Instead, the real separation comes on the threshing floor. There is only one true substance that will make it to the mill. It is not the one that chokes the life out of everything around it. It is not the one that sows discourse and strife. Still yet it will not be the one that hords all of the nutrients, and is so selfish that it only cares about oneself. No, the wheat is the one that will make it to the mill, and ultimately into piping hot bread on the dinner table.
Are you the Wheat or a Tare? Pretty direct question to think about. I pray that each one of you is a Humble Servant used for purposes intended. However, this lesson really makes us take a step back and evaluate our own lives. This passage in the Bible goes on to talk about what happens to the Wheat and the Tares. I encourage everybody to go back and read this in length. As for me and my household, we have made a decision to be the WHEAT...
Daddy, Daddy, Daddy...Could we please get a puppy dog. We will love it, feed it, bathe it, and exercise it. I heard this for about a month in July of '08. Don't get me wrong, I love animals. I had four dogs growing up. Out of all of them, my Golden Retriever was by far the most loving. We went to the pound, tried to adopt a dog (couldn't get people to get on the ball and call us), etc... Finally, I gave in a month later. I said okay, if we are going to get a puppy, it has to be a Golden Retriever. The three kiddos were fine with that. We went in August of '08 and bought Jasmine from a person over in New Albany, IN. It was love at first sight. Not just for my children and wife, but for me.
Please don't mistake any of what I am writing here as not loving my dog, but I would like to make a point. Have you ever had a love for someone or something, and then it slowly fades as the months go by? Soon, I was the one feeding, watering, walking, bathing, and spending time with Jasmine. The kids get their thrill out of her when they need her, but I am the consistent love in her life. She is so obsessed with me, that she can not get close enough to my face. If she hears me make any noise stirring in bed in the morning, she will come stand right by my side of the bed with her head a couple of inches from mine, as if to say, "Is it time now for you to get up? Will you now spend time with me? I have been waiting for you all night." I get the same reaction when I get home. I have to admit, sometimes I get really annoyed. I feel like saying, "Man dog, give me some space." Quit being so obsessive.
God has been speaking to my heart for quite some time about the parrallels between Jasmine and Himself. God wants us to spend time with Him. He can not wait for us to wake up and to put Him first in our lives. When we go to sleep, He wants us to keep Him on our mind. The problem arises when I think that Jasmine is getting too obsessive and I need some space. Do you ever feel like you push God away and feel like He wants too much of your life? The thing that amazes me more than anything is I can have a bad day, but Jasmine takes my rejection in stride. She does not try to get as far away from me when I yell at her, instead she will stand by waiting for me to get over my attitude. She is forgiving like I have never seen this gift portrayed before. No matter what I say to her or how I treat her, she is always wanting to pursue a close personal relationship with me.
Do you know that God our Father is much the same way. We can push Him away, and He is still there waiting for us. We can put our heads on our pillow at night, and He is right there by our bedside when we get up the next morning. So many times we forget how satisfying it is to spend time with Him on a daily basis. Will you learn from this life lesson, and stop rejecting God...
What is your definition of Missions? I have learned through the years that everybody has a different definition and interpretation. Some grew up hearing of stories of missionaries from Africa giving their lives for the cause. Then others have seen youth go on short term mission trips as well. Many people cringe at the thought of Missions, because it invokes thoughts of letters arriving at their doorstep asking for money to sponsor a trip. Even though the letter might say that if you can't support financially, please commit to praying for the individual. Somehow most people feel guilty by this, and tend to give a little something.
I can speak from experience, as I have gone on 3 short-term mission trips. I have been the one mailing those letters out seeking support. In 2001, I went on my first mission trip to El Salvador. This was an impromptu trip in response to an earthquake that had ravished the country. Then in 2005 and 2006 I had the opportunity to lead teams to Jamaica. Now before you start thinking that it must have been nice going to Jamaica, we were in some of the roughest, dangerous places I ever care to step foot in.
What is the purpose of Missions? Matthew 28:19 says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Many interpret this to mean that we have to sell all that we have and hit the foreign mission field. If that is what God is calling you to do, then I am all for it. I say, "Go with Godspeed." However, others feel like we are to take times in our life and go on short-term mission trips. These usually are 7-10 days, and don't require much sacrifice on our end. I am also very much in support of these trips, but be prepared for it to change your life, rather than evangelizing the whole nation.
I would like to bring to attention another type of Mission Work that we so often neglect, that is Domestic Missions. That is being a missionary right here in your back yard. So many times we think that the only way we can be used in ministry is if we are on staff at a local church, or on the foreigh mission field. The truth is that we should all be in Missions. If everybody was a missionary in their own Sphere of Influence, then the argument could be made that we wouldn't even need foreign missionaries.
What can you do to be involved in Missions? Who are your "Outsiders." Think about it. Who or What group of people do you not socialize or fellowship with. It could be your neighbors, somebody from an opposite race, or how about other "attenders" at the church down the road? Whatever it might be, it is not as complicated as it might seem. If the Great Commission instructs us to go out and make Disciples of Christ, then the question arises, Are We Doing This? As for me and my family, we are going to look for opportunities to be local missionaries to "Outsiders" as much as we can. Will you join us...
When I was a boy I absolutely loved going fishing at Mr. McCurdy's farm pond. This was my neighbors pond that was just over the hill from my house. Somebody had informed me that I could catch some really nice catfish in that lake if I was to tie some twine to a stake, put a treble hook on the end, and then attach some chicken livers to that. I don't know about you, but chicken livers are about my least favorite thing in the world. It still grosses me out when I hear of people eating turkey gizzards and liver at Thanksgiving time. Whatever... Back to the point. I put two of these such contraptions out on the pond, and went back the next day to check them. WHOAAAAA...
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I checked the first line, and it was as tight as can be. I knew that I had something big on the other end. I carefully pulled it in, and low and behold there was a nice 28" Channel Catfish. I think that was the biggest fish I have ever "caught" up to that point in my life. Then I meandored on over to the other line and sure enough it was tight as well. I just figured that what was on the other end had to have been the same thing as what I had previously pulled in. NOPE... There was a 20+ pound snapping turtle hissing at me. I couldn't believe my eyes. I was inches from putting my thumb in its mouth. By the way, five minutes before that you would have thought I had learned my lesson. I put my thumb in that catfish mouth just like I would have in a bass, big mistake. I thought that I had learned that catfish had teeth, and now I was going straight for the mouth of this snapping turtle. I quickly reeled away and fell on my backside. In case you haven't figured it out, there is no easy way to take a treble hook out of a snapping turtles mouth. I finally gave up and cut the line...
How many of you have experienced something like this in your own life. One minute you are pulling up nice sized catfish and everything is rosy. You just expect everything to be going along the same, when all of a sudden you find that you are about to put your hand in a whole bunch of trouble. I have known many friendships that have been soiled by people that have not been sensitive to the other person, and all of a sudden they are cut and released. We have all seen people on the job that were not willing to listen and be taught by their bosses or subordinates and all of a sudden they come out hissing like that turtle. Still yet, we have seen marriages destroyed by members of the opposite sex who have whooed a spouse into a lurid affair. When the snapping turtle gets ya, he is not easily shaken free!
What snapping turtles do you have in your life? Are there vices that have gripped you so tight that you are not able to shake free? Are their relationships that have been gripped by negativity that need to be released? Ask God today what He would have you do to break free from these vile grips. If you are not in the mouth of the snapping turtle, be watchful and vigilant that you do not end up there...
How is your vision? Let's start off with a little challenge. When you see this picture, what thoughts go through your mind? I have to confess that I stared at it for like 10 minutes expecting it to come into perfectly clear vision. All I saw was a figure of a head with two heart shaped objects for eyes, and what looked like a rear-view mirror on the forehead. Then I realized that you are supposed to stare at the center of this picture for 30 seconds, then look at a blank wall or white piece of paper. You will see an image of Jesus that we have all grown to know, even though I am not sure how accurate those depictions are.
This made me take a mental inventory of my own life, and whether or not I have preconceived notions about what and why we do things. At first glance it appears that things are what they are. A picture of a face with two hearts for eyes and a rear-view mirror on the forehead. However, when we look deeper and start researching the scriptures, then Jesus reveals Himself to us.
For the last couple of years, I have been on an aggressive track of Apologetics. For those of you that don't know what that this is, it is not apologizing for all of your short comings. No, it is the art of being able to explain what you believe and why you believe it. So many of us have just learned to take life as it comes at us, and we never realize the necessity of research, understanding, and challenging our hearts and minds.
From 1996--1999 Brooksley Born, the Chairwoman of the Commondity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), went before Congress and the President and warned of the need for regulation in the Financial Derivatives market. Not only was she ignored, ridiculed, and shamed; but she had all her power taken away from her and she ultimately resigned her post. Lack of regulation ultimately led to the crash of the derivates market, which helped trigger the economic and financial crisis in the fall of 2008. The White House, Federal Reserve, and Treasury (most of whom were present at that time in different capacities) have since admitted that they were wrong and that there is a real and necessary need for regulation. This is one area that could have benefited from not staring at the picture and taking it at face value. With a deeper understanding and vision, this could have been prevented.
I highly encourage everbody to look into what they believe as Christians and challenge it. Now before you call me a hypochrite and call for me to be burned at the stake, here me out. I am talking about Apologetics. We are not to just take a minister or pastors word from the pulpit as Gospel, but are always encouraged to check it with the Bible. Several years ago I decided to implement this into my life. I realized all the different things that I had been taught through the years, but I didn't know the scripture verses to back them up, and did not have a heart felt conviction about them. Instead, it was all head knowledge, and I could rattle it off, without fully understanding WHY!
Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water with this. This does not mean that you abandon anything that you have ever been taught, but rather that you strengthen and reinforce your convictional beliefs. How is your Vision? Are you able to look past the surface picture, and discern what lies beneath? I encourage you to study to show yourself approved through the reading of His Word...