Thursday, January 31, 2008

How Much Should I Give?

"And many who were rich, put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans…“she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mark 12:41-44)

I guess if we have to add up how much we give to the Lord, it’s not worth giving. We know God loves a cheerful giver, on who is glad to give to the Lord’s work. Check out this poor widow. As she passed one of the receptacles in the Temple for taxes and offerings, she reached in her purse and put in all she had. She didn’t get out her calculator and figure out 10% of 1/40 of a penny (the value of two mites). She didn’t even consider 50% of what she had and put one in and keep the other for some food. No, she gave all she had to the Lord who gave her all she had…Jehovah Jirah! She had no problem trusting God to provide her needs.

Many are perplexed concerning tithing today. Some say it’s an Old Testament law. Some say 10% applies to one part of your salary and not another. Others say we can tithe our talents and time in place of finances. I say this: Christ gave it all for me, so when I begin to justify not giving, I have a problem concerning my relationship with Him! If the Jews had to give over 30% of their possessions in tithes and taxes, who are we to complain? After all, we know the Savior! We’ve seen and experienced His resurrection power. We’re not hoping anymore, are we?

My finances tell a lot about my relationship and commitment to the Lord. I look toward the day when I always have enough for my family to live comfortably, yet I always want to have money to give when someone is in need, when a missionary comes to town, when a child is raising money for his school project, or when a homeless lady needs a meal or some clothes. Limiting my giving to the church and various other ministries to a percentage limits my trust in God to provide. Oh, there is a minimum, but do we just “tip” God? How much I give is between me and God. However, I know one day He will hold me accountable!!! So, HOW MUCH SHOULD I GIVE?

Christ came to us to live a life of sacrifice and service. He came to minister to us. He came to give Himself for us. Be cause He first loved us, we now are to be willing and ready to love Him and others in return. If we looked in to our checkbooks today, or examined our on-line banking, what would it reveal? Do we look forward to giving as well?

If the widow could give all she had and trust God to provide, what’s that say about our level of trust…and love…and commitment to our Lord? HOW MUCH SHOULD I GIVE?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What Will It Take?

“But now my eyes see You. Therefore I abhor myself…” (Job 42:5-6)

David realized this when he begged for the Lord’s forgiveness. He was growing old, sickly, and feeble without the presence of God in his life. Isaiah exclaimed, “Woe is me” when he experienced just a glimpse of the holiness of God. Job also realizes here how small and frail a man is before God. These three men all share one significant occurrence. They had a personal experience and relationship with Almighty God!

Many today have heard of God. Many know He exists. Even more realize that He is in control of the world and its destiny. Millions pray, sing, and speak His praises. But how many experience Him and really have a personal relationship with Him? How many know there is a god as opposed to those who know God? WHAT WILL IT TAKE to know God as Lord, Savior, Deliverer, Rock, Fortress, Friend, Counselor, and Father…Abba…my eternal, loving, forgiving, patient, jealous, and holy DADDY? WHAT WILL IT TAKE for it to be personal?

As Job experienced, hardship causes us to appreciate things more. We become humble. Our eyes are opened to see things as they truly are. Life changes when God intervenes! When we lose our health, our relationships, our possessions, perhaps even family members as Job did, we see God in a different light. We know we are really out of control and in His hands! God also intervenes in positive ways; as in a pay raise, a successful year in school, wonderful health, a new home, an unexpected sale at the store, a new friendship, a beautiful sunny day. Do we experience these things and change our perspective of God as well, or do we believe we orchestrated all these things?

It doesn’t have to be what we consider a negative intervention from God to get us to really know to Him. When Job first experienced his hardships, he fell down and worshipped the Lord. Obviously this was not the first time he worshipped God. He had a relationship with The God of the universe. He recognized all things come from Him, not just a few things. In his heart, he knew God. Our attitude in life is based on our perspective of God. Who is He…really? We must answer that for ourselves. Good times come and bad times will come. God is the same despite the circumstances. The better we know Him, the happier, the more blessed, the holier we become! WHAT WILL IT TAKE to worship Him in all circumstances, just for Who He is?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

01 29 08 How Long?

“Seek the LORD while he makes himself available;
call to him while he is nearby!
The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle and sinful people their plans.
They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them,
and to their God, for he will freely forgive them.
“Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds…”
(Isaiah 55:6-8 NET)

Isaiah is known as the Paul of the Old Testament, his name meaning Yahweh is salvation. Is it any coincidence that he wrote 66 books, 39 relating to Old Testament (sin and judgment) and 27 loosely corresponding to the New Testament (consolation, hope, and salvation). He ministered to kings and noblemen for nearly 60 years and warned them of foolish actions and not trusting in the God to direct them and deliver them. Tradition has it that the prophet was cut in two during the reign of King Manasseh because of his unpopular message!

Yet his message still rings loud and clear today. Even though we have the testimony of Scripture (both New and Old Testaments) we still choose to move by our own counsel rather than the direction of God. We make unholy alliances and relationships in business and in our personal lives, despite knowing God disapproves. We even ask God to bless our mess, rather than choosing to bless God with our decisions and plans in the first place. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Yes, today we need to seek God while there is still time (Psalm 32:6). If we know Him, we need to follow Him more closely. God is free to give mercy to a truly repentant heart. (Psalm 51:17) God’s ways are not like ours. His plans look far into eternity! At times we can’t even see past our own nose!

“Make the hearts of these people calloused;
make their ears deaf and their eyes blind!
Otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
their hearts might understand and they might repent and be healed.”
I replied, “How long, sovereign master?”
(Isaiah 6:10-11)

Isaiah wondered aloud HOW LONG he would have to tell the people; after all, they weren’t listening! I wonder too, HOW LONG will God put up with us? We aren’t listening too much better today! Oh, but God is so patient that all will come to repentance and none are lost. We’re closer today than ever to His return. HOW LONG will we wait… HOW LONG do we have?

Monday, January 28, 2008

01 28 08 Loving on People

“But whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.”
(1 John 3:17-18 NET)

Francis of Assisi once wrote, “Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words.” Jesus’ brother James witnessed our Lord LOVING ON PEOPLE throughout his life. Whether it was the woman at the well, the blind man, the cripple, or the man possessed by a legion of demons. Jesus spent time with others, shared their joy, and wept along with others in time of sorrow. So later on, James would instruct us to be doers of His Word, not simply hearers. Love is not a feeling; it is a verb! It is action. It is a lifestyle.

The New Living Translation translates 1 John 3:18 like this: “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” It begins with me doing more than just talking about helping. I must do more than the stale “I’ll pray for you” when I hear of another’s needs. I must be willing to act: do my best to meet that need or at least find some means to meet it. Yes, I should pray and continue to pray, but prayer must have feet, hands, and labor as well! When non-believers witness a loving people they want to know why. When they experience that love for themselves, because we met their needs, they want to know our motives. The answer is Jesus. LOVING ON PEOPLE opens their heart up to Christ and brings us closer to Him as well.

We serve God by serving others and we can serve even better when we serve with other believers. (Ecclesiastes 4:9) It's better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth, and share the benefits of community, fellowship, and seeing God work through one another to increase His Kingdom! God put us here to work as community and as a body. Let’s carry out that task in deliberate acts of LOVING ON PEOPLE as Christ did!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

01 25 08 You Are Holy!

“For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.”
(Leviticus 11:45 NASB)

Has God ever brought you from a place of desolation, despair, disillusionment? When the pain was too much to bear….the situation too confusing….the circumstances way out of your control? The simple fact that the Lord brought us out of sin is reason enough to praise Him and commit our life to live for Him…to be holy! Whether it was a drug addiction, alcohol addiction, sexual addiction, or the simple everyday sin nature, if we called upon Jesus’ name to save us and were sincere about it, than God indeed brought us out of our Egypt (our sinful past) and brought us into the holy priesthood of saints! YOU ARE HOLY my Lord!

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”
(Isaiah 6:3 NKJV)

Do we have to have some miraculous deliverance to call God holy? Do we have to have a monster testimony? Is it not enough to simply wake up and look around; observe a sunrise; watch a bumble bee feed upon a fresh blossom; experience a blanket of new-fallen snow; see the tide retreat into the ocean, or try to count the stars in summer sky? Oh, Father, YOU ARE HOLY! It’s evident everywhere we go!

“Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, because I am holy’.”
(1 Peter 1:13-16)

We are tempted by so many distractions. Everyday life eats up our time. Work demands our attention. Family pulls at our heart-strings. How can we possibly be holy? We simply have to put God first and honor Him through it all. He doesn’t expect perfection…he calls us to be faithful. God isn’t asking us to sacrifice anything, but to be obedient to Him in all things. He doesn’t promise happiness, but demands holiness…because He is holy! He doesn’t leave us helpless: He gives us His Spirit to seal us and strengthen us so we can be one with Him. Holiness means fellowship, intimate relationship with the Mighty One! Oh DADDY, YOU ARE HOLY and I seek to be one with you: holy, because YOU ARE HOLY!!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I,
but the grace of God which was with me.”
(1 Corinthians 15:10 NKJV)

But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I'm not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven't I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn't amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it.”
(1 Corinthians 15:10 The Message)

In my studies this morning, I had one passage in mind to concentrate, but as happens quite often, the Lord had something else for me to ponder. As I read through several devotions, this one stuck in my mind, perhaps because my DADDY knows how I am struggling lately. He knows my needs and He knows my heart. He sat me down and whispered these words to me:

“God gave you a unique role to play in his Kingdom. You’re the only person in the world who can live your particular life for the glory of God. There is no one else in the world with your unique mix of spiritual gifts, passions, abilities, personality, and experiences. God shaped you for a very specific ministry and no one else can fulfill your mission.” (Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional, Jan.24, 2008)

Ever feel the need for confirmation of your parents, your boss, or your spiritual leaders just to be encouraged to push on? Applause from the crowd doesn’t matter. It must come from the one you look up to, the one who taught you, that role model you follow after. It’s that confirmation that you are worth it and you matter and that you are effective.

God does that for us…if we’re only quiet and still enough to listen. So like Paul, we all yearn for His applause. We don’t always have the perfect Dad, the best mentor, the interested family members, or the caring friends. But we have a heavenly DADDY who knows every hair upon our head, even the ones that have gone away! He cares so deeply. That’s the One I work for. He’s the One who gave me the assignment. As messed up as I am, MY DADDY LOVES ME eternally and unconditionally. That’s a comforting and encouraging thought! And He chooses to use me…and you too. So we do it all for Him so others may know Him as well!

“But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for
doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus––
the work of telling others the Good News about
God’s wonderful kindness and love.”
(Acts 20:24 NLT)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

01 23 08 Closest Encounters

“I spread my hands out to you in prayer;
my soul thirsts for you in a parched land…May I hear about your loyal love in the morning, for I trust in you. Show me the way I should go,
because I long for you…Teach me to do what pleases you,
for you are my God. May your kind presence lead me into a level land…O LORD, for the sake of your reputation, revive me…for I am your servant.”
(Psalm 143:6-12 NET)

Here the psalmist seems to be recalling some troublesome times; perhaps with family issues, enemy attacks, or even personal struggles within himself. I remember the times when the Lord was all I had. Remember those times? Perhaps you’re going through one of those times now? Things seem so challenging; situations so dire; people seemed so distant; it seems as though just the Lord and me! As we go through, it is so lonely and trying, but as we look back, such times seem as our most rewarding and our CLOSEST ENCOUNTERS with the Lord.

We get so comfortable in this life, surrounded by the things we like, the people we like and the situations we like. We go to great lengths to make things comfortable for our family and ourselves. It’s when we have nothing that we realize God is everything. It’s when we run out of answers when we realize God has all the answers. It’s when we’re broke that we realize how we rich we are in Christ. It’s when we’re all alone…even in the midst of a crowd, that we realize that there is no friend like Jesus.

Jesus indeed sticks closer than any brother and He was born for adversity. But He is also the Bright and Morning Star and our King of Glory! He leads us through the valley of the darkest shadows and walks with us through the fiercest storm, until we hear “Peace…be still”. Where is there a better place than in the middle of storm holding onto the hand of the Master? At the foot of the cross…looking into my Savior’s eyes…knowing the battle has been won…as He groaned triumphantly, “It is finished!

I thank God for the things He and He alone has provided for me and my family and kept us. I am so blessed to have a beautiful and intelligent wife, my life partner, my heart, and best friend, as well as children who care for me deeply and bring me so much joy. I am so grateful for the church family He has given to me who have become my closest friends. But nothing can compare to my relationship with my Jesus. Only He knows my deepest pain and torment. He knows my heart’s desires before they are expressed, if ever. He hears me when everyone is asleep, too busy, or unavailable. He always understands.

In celebration or in consolation, my CLOSEST ENCOUNTERS are with Jesus. May He lead us, guide us, correct us, challenge us, teach us, and revive us each and every day.

Lord, “I spread my hands out to you in prayer; for I am your servant!”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

01 22 08 His Footsteps

“The man said to him, ‘Teacher, I have wholeheartedly obeyed
all these laws since my youth.’
As Jesus looked at him, he felt love for him and said, ‘You lack one thing. Go, sell whatever you have and give the money to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’
But at this statement, the man looked sad and went away sorrowful,
for he was very rich.”
(Mark 10:20-22 NET)

The Amplified Bible reads in Mark 10:21 “…come accompany Me (walking the same road I walk).”

Here the rich young ruler knew all the Scriptures and professed to keeping all of them. But Jesus knew his attitude; his true heart condition. Would he give up all he loved of life and really follow after Christ? Was it possible for God’s will become His first and only priority? Was this man able to commit to walking down the road with Jesus, leaving his will behind? Would he commit to walk in HIS FOOTSTEPS?

Unfortunately, we know the answer: the beauty and riches of the world were too strong of a pull. The young man was sad, but obviously not grieved enough to follow Christ. As smart as he was and all the things he had….he would leave lacking.

As we look in the mirror of our hearts, who do we resemble the most; the rich young ruler or the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Her reaction to the good man she was talking was not pride, but astonishment as she decided go and tell her friends and invite them to hear Him as well.

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.”
(John 4:29)

The Samaritan woman had an encounter with the One who knew all about her and she believed…even to tell others. The rich young man’s reaction was to turn away in sadness. It seems the young man had too much to leave behind when asked to walk in HIS FOOTSTEPS. The Samaritan woman on the other hand, was humbled, realizing her life was an open book before the Lord. Maybe we too have a little too much stuff to really walk in HIS FOOTSTEPS.

What is holding us back from 100% commitment: Is it our job, our family, our possessions, our wish list? Are we willing to make Jesus Christ our only priority? Will we selfishly walk away from His invitation to “follow me” or we humbly admit we really have nothing without Him and follow HIS FOOTSTEPS. One thing we are promised; as we commit, the Lord will walk with us and never leave us alone and orphaned. No matter who walks away from us, God never will. I am a witness to this, even though I can say I don’t deserve his faithfulness to me. He is always there to call me back, as long as I am willing to take His hand!

Friday, January 18, 2008

01 18 08 Still Dreamin’…..

“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.”
(Philippians 2:1-3 NET)

“I have a dream”…..the words still echo throughout the hilltops, cities, and churches today. They are not meant for a political message or as a slick slogan to push a program. They were from a sincere man of God’s heart for oneness; the kind of oneness Paul wrote about to the believers in Philippi. If we, the body of believers, the present-day disciples of Jesus Christ can’t be one, then who can be one? And if we can’t be one, are we really His to begin with?

“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one –I in them and you in me – that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.”
(John 17:20-23 NET)

Jesus anticipated our struggles to remain one, as He prayed to the Father just before delivering Himself up for the sacrifice upon the cross. He knew that even in the Church, there would be the temptation of selfishness, greed, isolation, and unfortunately; discrimination and prejudice. Sad as it may seem, all believers are human and still have a sin nature. Our selfish desires need to held in check. That is only done by allowing God’s Holy Spirit to be in control; both in the Church as a body and in every individual believer. Dr. King’s “dream” was not just for political purposes or a specific group of people. It was for all people and all of society. I have to believe that as an ordained minister, Dr. King had to have in mind the oneness Jesus prayed for in John 17.

In many ways we are STILL DREAMIN” today. My wife and I still occasionally get stares when we walk along the malls or enter buildings, especially when we are with our children or grandchildren. I can almost hear the whispers in people’s minds, “Whose baby is that…his or hers?” At times the looks are innocent, but I can also tell when the look offers anger and irritation. I too dream of the day when Americans will be Americans (not white Americans, African Americans, or other hyphenated Americans). I pray for a future where our children will be known as Americans who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior! Born in America? We are Americans! Born-again into the Body of Christ? We are Christians! Isn’t that simple? It’s just not as hard to be one when we stop trying to be so divided!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

01 17 08 Thanks and Encouragement

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters and rightly so, because your faith flourishes more and more and the love of each one of you all for one another is ever greater. As a result we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions you are enduring.”
(2 Thess. 1:3-4 NET)

Paul writes with his customary thanksgiving for the believers, though the thanksgiving is mixed with a note of comfort as well. God is perfecting these believers as seen in their perseverance through persecutions. The words, “because your faith flourishes more and more and the love of each one of you all for one another is ever greater,” points us to the reason for their thanksgiving. When going through the difficulties of life we can not only lose sight of God’s design to mature us in Christ, but also of our own spiritual progress of growth. Thus, in order to encourage them even more the apostle used two words for growth or progress, one that focused on their faith and the other on the progress of their love.

Our faith is tested daily, but especially when we and others go through trials and tempting. If God is not our God when we are really put to the fire, than is He really our God? He’s not just the God of good times, but the God of ALL time! So as a friends and fellow believers, we need to THANK one another for the support we receive. We need to ENCOURAGE one another in the middle of storms and do whatever we can to help one another through; a word, a letter, a phone call, a visit, a meal. We can’t wait to be asked to help, we need to volunteer! It has to come from love, from our faith, not from obligation or guilt.

I admit, at times it is hard to ask for or even receive assistance. We want to “be the man” and “handle our business”. That’s fine and good, but when I have been able to experience the unexpected generosity of people giving from their hearts, it has not only humbled me, but actually increased my faith and caused me to desire to give and do more for Christ and His people.

So when we see someone in need: let’s give. When we are in need: let’s receive with humility. Together we grow in faith, persevere through trials, and increase our love for one another and for the Lord. To each of you I say, “THANKS” ……“be ENCOURAGED”!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

01 16 08 Special Relationships

“Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone,
especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.”
(Galatians 6:10 NLT)

Paul is writing to the Galatians who seem to be swayed by a perverted form of the Gospel (Galatians 1:6- ). He warned them to adhere to the teachings they first learned; that it was the blood of Christ that saved them and His Spirit which they received by faith, not by any physical work or ritual (Galatians 3:1-5) As believers, we are free from the constraints of the world (Galatians 5:13) and owe nothing to one another but love. We have a special bond, SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS with one another through Christ. We are no longer bound by laws, ordinances, and ritual: outward signs only. Paul goes on to list the fruit that the Spirit of God grants the believer: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so on (Galatians 5:22-23) Physical works, acts of the flesh and religious ritual are merely for the outward eye to see. They get us caught up in doing rather than being! We can do nothing of our own power to have a relationship with the Savior but believe His Word and repent of our sin.

“Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family.
Revere God. Respect the government.”
(1 Peter 2:17 the Message)

We are saved from our sin to do good for others. We can not do good to become saved! Our works will be a sign to others that we are just a bit different; motivated by something other than selfish gain and vain applause. We as believers are to treat everyone with respect and dignity, as Paul and Peter reiterate. We are to respect all authority, unless of course it causes us to go against Godly principles. However, above those relationships, we are to love our spiritual family, those who are of one mind, one Spirit, one faith with us. Finally, we are to revere God, honor Him, fear Him and give Him our highest respect and adoration. It is because of His love for us and His great grace and mercy that we have these SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS!

The bond between believers should cause those in a world devoid of committed and trustworthy relationships to say, “I need that kind of friend, that kind of family, that kind of love.” How are we dealing with our SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS? Are they in the proper perspective?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

01 15 08 One BIG Family

“For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another…Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another…Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality.”
(Romans 12:4-13 NET)

The more I accept His will for me and allow His grace and mercy to envelope my life, the more I see and experience that God does indeed have ONE BIG FAMILY! As I mature and grow (as He grows me) I am seeing just how wide and how deep the love of Christ is through the love of others within the Body we call the Church. When the simplest of our needs are met, whether it is our monthly bills, a vehicle repair, travel costs, prayer in time of distress, or a simple phone call or e-mail of encouragement, I am overwhelmed by His care and kindness for me. I know it’s my DADDY working through His children!

God cares for the smallest and largest of our needs as we make them known to Him. He also meets needs we never knew we had. I have lost count of how many times I have met with a friend, even a stranger, and the conversation has encouraged me so much that the renewed energy alone has gotten me through the day! When confronted with an opportunity to share my time or resources, though at the time I may doubt if I can even help at all, the reaction I receive to my humble assistance has let me know that God is deeply involved in my personal life! He still cares, still directs, and He is still is on the throne! Oh, the true Body of Christ is ONE BIG FAMILY; every age, every size, every color, every denomination, and all ranges of economic backgrounds as well.

“When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.”
(Romans 12:13 NLT)

I have to pause to say “Thank you” to each and everyone who has opened their doors, given from their personal finances, sacrificed their time, and shared our pain and rejoicing over the years. Many with you were there when the Lord began our journey as missionaries. Some have recently joined the journey with us. But every one of you is part of our ONE BIG FAMILY in Christ! Our prayer is that we can strive to do our best to honor the Lord with our lives and bring Him glory, causing others to seek after Him. In this way, you’ll know your sacrifice was well worth it and eternally effective. God bless you and may He keep meeting your needs as you continue to serve Him as well!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

01 10 08 Abhor the Sin, not the Sinner

“But when they saw it, they all complained, saying,
‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner’."
(Luke 19:7 NKJV)

I like the Message’s version: “Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, ‘What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?’" Man, doesn’t that sound like something we’d say? Imagine if someone saw me speaking to a known drug dealer on the street or having lunch with a young lady with a rather shady reputation. I can only think of my experience aiding the Katrina redevelopment projects in New Orleans as we did just those things.

Here at home, we would report the drug dealer, shun the young lady, and not think of being seen with such sinners! But are we looking at them with the eyes of the Savior? Do we see what He sees? Oh, how I pray for His heart’s desire to be mine!

While I agree, we must have safeguards set up to protect our integrity and never do anything (especially in the dark or behind closed doors) to tempt anyone to sin or to encourage sin, but we need to reach the sinner nonetheless. Many of us have fallen into the risky habit of abhorring sinners and refusing to associate with such folk. Do we need a reminder of who we really are without Christ? Has it been that long? Has the mirror shrunken so small? We are called to ABHOR THE SIN, NOT THE SINNER!

“For the Son of man came to make search
for those who are wandering from the way, and to be their Saviour”
(Luke 19:10 BBE).

I really like the Bible in Basic English version of Luke 19:10. Jesus came to search for those who are wandering around, lost, and He came to be their Savior! No matter the sin, Jesus calls us all to repentance. If we are to truly be His representatives, why do we choose the sinners we want to reach? I wonder how many remain lost simply because we did not find them good enough to speak to. I thank God that the members of my church consistently pursued me!

Let the Lord work through us and guide us as to whom we should reach, rather than we do the choosing. May our prayer be for the Lord to lead us and direct us to those He knows need to hear. May His words speak through us and His love reach the hearts of those we meet. Lord, give us a love for sinners and a passion to reach them for Your glory?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

01 09 08 What Will My Answer Be?

“Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to my people? Who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Lord, I’ll go! Send me.’ ”
(Isaiah 6:8 NLT)

Abraham Jacob, Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah all answered the Lord when He called upon them: “Here I am.” They were prepared. They were ready. They may not have been the most qualified. They certainly were not the most perfect of candidates. They all had issues! But one thing they all were: willing! WHAT WILL MY ANSWER BE when the Lord calls upon me? “Wait a minute or two…Let me get this straightened out first…Let me finish up at this job and retire…I will when my kids mature…Ok, but after we get the finances settled; everything paid off…” Sound familiar? “Find someone else Lord!”

“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.”
(Ezekiel 22”30 NLT)

Jerusalem’s society was in utter chaos in Ezekiel’s day. Even the priests and prophets were in great decay. Families were in disarray; the poor were not cared for; orphans neglected; bribes, extortion, immoral lifestyles. God searched for just one who would be able to “stand in the gap” for the nation, but He found none! That was Jerusalem in 500-600 B.C. America is no better today!

When God is searching today for a father to live holy, pray, serve, and stand in the gap for his family WHAT WILL MY ANSWER BE? When He seeks out families to serve within the church Body, WHAT WILL MY ANSWER BE? When He calls for volunteers for the children’s’ school, WHAT WILL MY ANSWER BE? Will God find anyone to stand for Him? Will He find me willing to stand in the gap or falling through the cracks?

WHAT WILL MY ANSWER BE when He calls my name?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

01 08 08 Awake My Soul (V)

(God Rocks: The Rock of All Ages)

They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying,
‘Isn't this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers?
And didn't he come here to do the same thing—
arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?’ “
(Acts 9:21 The Message)

Saul spent his time seeking after Christians and persecuting them to the point of death. He was there when the apostle Stephen was stoned and heard the prayers of a man asking for his killers to be forgiven (Acts 7). This no doubt influenced Saul’s thinking. But then Jesus met up with Him along the road to Damascus and questioned Him, “Why do you persecute Me?” There Saul’s life was changed and he became a new man, so much so he was to ne known as Paul and he would now spread the Word of the God and Savior whom he denounced, to the point of killing His followers. No wander people had to ask, “Is this the man who once chased us down and sought to kill us. Now he preaches the name of Christ?” He was definitely a changed man…from the heart!

Do others see us as changed? Since we professed Christ as our Lord and Savior, do others see us as a changed man or woman? Would those from our past recognize us today? Could we be convicted in a court of law of being a believer?

Jesus spoke to another Pharisee, but this one came to seek Jesus. This one was named Nicodemus, the teacher of the Jewish Law. He taught the Law, but didn’t recognize the Truth, even as it was staring him in the face!

“Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council,
came to Jesus at night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.
For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.’
Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ ”
(John 3:1-3)

How many today claim to know the Bible, yet don’t know Jesus? Sadly, many will go to hell knowing who He is, but never really knowing Him personally! There will be preachers, priests, Deacons and teachers who do not know the One they teach. Yes, even today, men and women; boys and girls; must be BORN AGAIN! A relationship with the Savior is personal; it is real; it is life-changing! The evidence will be clear for all to see. Things we once did we will no longer desire to do. Actions once pleasurable will become garbage and disgusting.

GOD ROCKS and He will rock the world of every believer if we really believe He is Who He is; THE ROCK OF ALL AGES!!!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tamara's Memories of 2007

These are the heart-felt words of my bride, Tamara, as she reflected upon 2007. May they bless you indeed as they did me! (Jerry)

sJanuary 1, 2008:
Memoirs of 2007

My Lord has blessed me with His richest blessings, and His love. He kept me through times of disappointments (re-affirmation turnout), deaths (aunts Althea & Barbara and 17 year old niece Jazz), depression, school, sibling tragedy (brother Herb), painful decisions and hurt from my children, and financial hardships.

Last year was a whirlwind. I celebrated 10 years of marriage with my first wedding ceremony, went on a honeymoon cruise and then things changed. Aunt Althea went into a coma and died. She died and was buried while I was away on the cruise. July 14th my cousin, Jazz, was in a car accident and died on the scene. She was one day older than my son, Aj. My son Aj had to be removed from our home and signed up for Job Corp because of his insolence, argumentative attitude, defiance and disrespect which disrupted the entire family. Through all this I had not slept steady for almost 3 months and became depressed. I lost interest in everything. I just couldn’t find joy, not in Stargate, my favorite snack or any of my comfort things. I cried a lot for what appeared to be no reason and I was easily aggravated. During this time we had a full house with a young mother and her 2 children who were homeless (9 people in total) and I had just started Hermeneutics II online with Liberty University. I had to keep a stiff upper lip and could not show my true state. I was too embarrassed to tell my family (church and biological) that I was depressed. My life was so dim. All I wanted to do was sleep but when I went to lay down I felt guilty so I would get up and try to work. Sitting at my desk trying to focus on what I needed to do, the computer screen would become blurry as my eyes would fill with water and I would begin to cry again. I thought about my cousin and how she had to die and if she felt pain. I thought about our finances and wondered how I could finish school when I couldn’t focus on anything and then I would go lay down on the couch again and try to sleep. Finally, I went to my doctor and told her that I thought I was depressed. That’s when she shared that lack of sleep could bring on depression. I was given a mild sedative and medication for anxiety which was supposed to “take the edge off”. Well, it took more than that off as the room began to spin and I began to walk sideways trying to get to bed. Apparently my system was to “pure” even for the mildest sedative. That was the end of that medicine for sure. Now that I remember, I actually laughed at myself for the first time in months because I couldn’t walk straight no matter how hard I tried. That moment of joy was brief as the world was closing in on me.

I forced myself to read the Bible and I tried to pray to regain hope because I felt so alone. Jerry was there and doing the best he could taking over my responsibilities in the home and in the ministry. The silence from God was deafening. Why wasn’t He helping me, why wouldn’t He answer me, why doesn’t He stop me from sinking… I knew His word was true and I clung to it as much as I could. I was like a shipwrecked survivor holding onto a piece of driftwood trying to stay afloat.

I did not experience a miraculous recovery and I still battle that feeling from time to time but I did begin to get sleep and without the medication. I actually took myself off of it 2 times but was admonished by a true friend and my doctor to continue. She said if I had high blood pressure I would take the medicine for my health so I need to be obedient and taking the medication prescribed. Slowly things began to get better emotionally. I felt a little stronger.

During that time we also struggled financially with no additional income to help with the additional house guests but by God’s grace and faithfulness I am writing on this New Years day still in our home and no bills that are late as of December. My sister Kai Shanks, (the same one who admonished me about the medicine) brought over food from her mother’s home following her mother’s passing). I shared with her what I was going through and how I didn’t let anyone know what was going on.

I am no longer depressed though my aunt was tragically killed when struck by a car on November 11th and my brother was almost in a fatal car accident 2 weeks ago. Jerry and I were delivering Christmas packages to the families from Prison Fellowship and TSN’s Dodge Park families when my mother called. We were just leaving a house in Bowie when she said, “Herb was in an accident and he’s in critical condition.” All I could say was, “okay”. Mom then said, “Dad’s on his way to hospital.” I said, “Where is he?” She said P.G. I stared out the window in silence angry at God for a hot second and then these words came to my mind and my lips, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” I will bless the Lord at all times.” I will bless the Lord at all times.” I calmly asked Jerry to take me home to get the truck while he continued delivering the presents. I knew the children where waiting to see what their parents in prison had gotten them. He didn’t want to but I insisted. Jerry has always been by my side with every tragedy. He’s been my rock in the flesh, but this time the Rock would be with me. I drove up to the hospital when I felt a moment of weakness and I reached out to my sister, Pat Jennings who prayed with me on the way there. From my depression the Lord taught me to open up and share. Call on the Body of Christ when I’m in need. I did and she prayed me through.

I met my oldest sister as I was told he was sent to the 7th floor. See that was relief because he couldn’t have been as bad as they said if they moved him. It was a mistake. He was still in ICU. My Dad met us back at the emergency room and warned us of his appearance. He said, “One eye is pushed back into his scull, he has a broken nose and a broken neck with cuts covering his entire body. Again, I felt like I was going into shock but the Holy Spirit gave me strength. Praise God, my brother was alert and talking. Just before his accident he called my oldest brother and sister and told them good bye and that he appreciated all that they had done for him and he was tired of living. He told me that as he was driving down the street he said, “God I don’t want to do this. Please stop me. Give me some kind of a sign.” Well, Herb is alive today and I think that is a big enough sign! I asked him if he got his answer and he said he sure did. See my brother had been a crack addict for most of his adult life and this night he had narcotics and alcohol in his system. He began to black out behind the steering wheel and could only remember hitting 2 things before being thrown from the car. He had no idea what part of town he was in. Well, he’s recovering and so am I. I am stronger, I am wiser, I am so much better now. Nat Thomas sung this song just last night at the New Years Eve service at Woodstream Church.

Father, you’ve brought me a mighty long way. You’ve showed me what its like to walk through the valley of deaths, emotional and physical pains (tendonitis in both of my writs), depression and tragedies. You’ve taught me to fear no evil because you are with me. Your word and your truth did comfort me. Surly goodness and mercy did follow me all the days of 2007 and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

Thank you Jesus, for carrying me when I had no strength to stand; for loving me when I couldn’t love myself; for sustaining me when I wanted to give up. Thank you for renewing me and creating in me a right spirit. Now change me, fill me up that I may use my life to help others in Jesus’ name.

Truly faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen because I had to walk by faith as I could not even sense Christ’s presence. The void was unbearable, but He was there. Amen.
01 07 08 Awake My Soul (Part IV)(Experience His Blessings)

Now the LORD said to Abram,
‘Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household
to the land that I will show you. Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you,
and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
but the one who treats you lightly I must curse,
and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.’
So Abram left, just as the LORD had told him to do…”
(Genesis 12 :1-4 NET)

I know we all will not be Abraham and be the father of a great nation or even a great and famous family, but one thing is for sure: if we are willing to make even the smallest sacrifices in obedience to the Lord, the blessings will far outweigh the sacrifice! Our basic obedience to the Word of God promises blessings of peace and contentment, knowing we have done what our Father requires of us. Walking in concert with God brings contentment, even when those around us may disagree with us, ignore us, and even belittle us. The peace of God surpasses all understanding and brings fulfillment to the soul. And it will leave a legacy behind for all to see and follow. So like Abraham, we first need do just as the Lord tells us if we expect any change to take place.

“Moses answered again, ‘And if they do not believe me or pay attention to me,
but say, “The LORD has not appeared to you”?’ The LORD said to him,
‘What is that in your hand?’
He said, ‘A staff’.”
(Exodus 4:1-2)

Many of us say things like “I am not Abraham…I am not Moses….” Well, basically, that’s what Abraham and Moses said. They feared the unknown, like we all do! They doubted themselves. But as we see time and time again, we can do all things if we simply allow God to work through us. He equips us with all we need to do His work. It is the trick of the enemy to have us doubt!

God simply desires our obedience…our faithfulness…and the things we already possess, right I our own hands! Even to the very basic aspect of our salvation, we doubt if God could save a sinner like me! God promises to save anyone who calls upon His name and places his trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It’s simple obedience, faith, and surrender to Him. With all God has planned for each person’s life, it requires faith and obedience. The sacrifice of putting His will over our personal desire brings blessings. Trusting God to equip each of us to carry out His will brings blessings as well. We are blessed…others are blessed…and God is blessed as well as we allow His power to show through us!

So who am I and what do I have to offer? I am His child and I possess all He has given me to do His will. There is nothing I can’t do if God has me to do it. Apart from God I can do nothing, but by His Spirit…by His strength, in His power: I can do all things BUT fail! It’s all about Him!

O, AWAKE MY SOUL and really begin to EXPERIENCE HIS BLESSINGS. Isn’t it about time?

Friday, January 4, 2008

01 04 08 Awake My Soul III

I Will Question You!

“Get ready for a difficult task like a man;
I will question you
and you will inform me!
God’s questions to Job
‘Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!’”
(Job 38:3-5 NET)

Who do I think I am anyway? What do I really know? What knowledge, what security, what plans or achievements….if not for God’s providence? Jonathan Edwards said in his sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God (Enfield, Connecticut, July 8, 1741) that the natural man “depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is doing, or what he intends to do.” The born-again believer must realize we are at the mercy of God for all that we are able to accomplish

Any thought of independence from God is pure stupidity. Apart from Him, I can do nothing! A comparison to the Creator and me the creature is ridiculous! I am weak, finite and very, very limited in understanding. When God says, “I WILL QUESTION YOU”, I am best to be quieted, humble, and simply listen; realizing that He is God and I am not!

Oh AWAKE MY SOUL, and realize I am but a lump of clay in the Potter’s hand. I am at His mercy to use and shape me as He pleases. That’s when the most can be accomplished in my life; when I allow God to be Lord of my life!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

01 03 08 Awake My Soul(II)

Woe Is Me!

“And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips;
yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’”
(Isaiah 6:5 NRSV)

If this does not humble us, nothing will. Before God, every human being is found worthless….left for dead! We are simply unclean before a holy and perfect God. Every one of us deserves nothing but death in His sight. There is nothing we can say. “WOE IS ME” indeed! However, as the version above states “yet my eyes have seen the King”! As much as we deserve to be utterly destroyed, God has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ and offered us a chance at redemption through His blood, and only through the blood of Jesus.

Many however, will reject the chance and one day face God as an unregenerate man or woman with no legitimate excuse when face-to-face with a holy God. He will pronounce his own condemnation! Without the cleansing of our soul by His blood, (signified to Isaiah when he heard from the seraphs, “Your evil is removed; your sin is forgiven” [Isaiah 6:7]) none of us has any right before God.

A sinner is indeed in the hand of an angry God and without hope. As Mr. Edwards said long ago, “The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury”.1 The believer has hope however. Just as the burning coal from the altar of sacrifice represents a cleansing of Isaiah, the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross cleanses every one who comes to repentance and acceptance of Christ as their Lord and Savior. But even the righteous man, one cleansed by the blood of Christ, still must answer to God, as we’ll see with Job later……(Job 38)

1 Edwards, Jonathan, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God, July 8, 1741

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

01 02 08 Awake My Soul

“Awake, my soul!
Awake, O stringed instrument and harp!
I will wake up at dawn!”
(Psalm 57:8 NET)

David, even in the midst of hiding from Saul, commits to praising God with all he has. He will not be depressed and bemoan over his situation, but rise up early in the morning and shout praises to His God. Wake up the dawn! Awake, my very soul! God deserves our praise……simply because He is God! It’s no time to be sleep-walking through life. It is only the grace of God that keeps us alive and protected from the wrath our sin deserves.

Jonathan Edwards said “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God. (His sovereign pleasure)” It is His grace that saves us and His grace alone. This by itself deserves our daily praise!!! Because of His love for us, we can obtain His grace through faith in Christ, and escape His wrath, receiving eternal life with Him. Praise God!!!! But it is not to be taken lightly….is it enough to AWAKE MY SOUL and yours?

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.”
(Psalm 42:5 NKJV)

The Psalmist writes in exile form his people, yet he still has hope in the living God. It has been said that we don’t really know what we have in God until God is ALL we have. This is so true. We come to trust in things, in friends, even in our church, and we forget the One who supplies everything we have. Until we find our selves at the foot of the cross, alone and looking up, we will never be in a more secure, yet humbling position. There is no better place to be. AWAKE, MY SOUL and realize where my hope and trusts lie!

Many are simply a nudge away from hell and we watch them slipping away. We who have experienced His grace and mercy abuse it day by day. How long will we continue to sleep walk through this life, simply waiting to be taken home? How long will we ignore His presence? When will we commit to the One who committed so much to save our very soul? As those around us doubt, disgrace, and even deny the existence of our God, it is time indeed to AWAKE MY SOUL! It begins with you and me……today!

Storms and Faith

Jesus got into a boat. His disciples followed him.  Suddenly a terrible storm came up on the lake. The waves crashed over the boat. But Jesu...