Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some things we just cannot change . . .

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130:5-6)
In life, there are some things we just cannot change! Things happen no matter what we might have planned. We simply can't do anything about it. It just happens!!!!
We are careful to make plans. We ask God and other for guidance. We get started on the right path and BOOM . . . stuff happens!
The enemy would have us to cave in and to give up. What good is it to plan? How could God allow this to happen . . . again? Why try? Why now? Why me? Because God is allowing it so He can get the glory and so everyone around us will know it is God and not us! The better question is "What do I do now God?
Hang in . . . remember Job? Praise Him in the middle of it all and stay focused on the finish line!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Live for tomorrow

Do not put away riches for yourselves on earth. Moths and rust can destroy them. Thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, put away riches for yourselves in heaven. There, moths and rust do not destroy them. There, thieves do not break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your riches are.(Matthew 6:19-21)
One thing I have come to believe in my CHRISTian walk is that I hear God speaking more than once . . .I better adhere to His word! Now I know I should always listen, but like parenting, when it is repeated . . .well you get the message! If God wants me to hear it more than once, He wants me to do it! The message is surely for me and not everyone else! As my pastor was preaching on tithing and not tipping just yesterday (Sunday, January 19, 2014)he reminded me that all the things we have are simply junk. In fact, he also reminded me that our bright shiny new vehicles that we just love one day go to a junk yard! That symbolic message really hit home!
While today has its unique problems of its own, I must live for tomorrow.
As I give to God (the local church, missions, those in need)I am improving the future. I am allowing my pastor to devote full-time to study, preaching, teaching, and counseling. He can concentrate on the things of the church and its people and not have to worry about where his family support is coming from. The same for giving to mission work. The missionary can devote time to study and preparation for his or her work and know the work can be performed. he does not have to labor in raising support for his family or the ministry. Giving to those in need allows the community to see God at work as well as the church Body becomes a visible hand of God! You see, as we give to God, spiritual foundations are strengthened within the Church, the family, and the community. He doesn't need our money but when we give, we give toward the future. I can recall when I first was saved in 1993 at a small church on a hill with a few hundred members. That church now has a building which holds up to 1,500 people and a school for K-4 through 12th grade with a college on the way! My son now attends that school and my grandchildren attend the church. In fact, one has been saved and baptized at the same church and by the same pastor where I was saved and baptized!
As we give to God, a spiritual legacy can grow. Let's live for tomorrow . . . for eternity!

Friday, January 17, 2014

In due time . . .

Even young people become worn out and get tired. Even the best of them trip and fall. But those who trust in the Lord will receive new strength. They will fly as high as eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not grow weak. (Isaiah 41:30-31)
Everybody gets tired now and then. We all get a bit frustrated at times. It's human nature! The world is a mess and anyone trying to please God will face trying times! We will want to give up, give in, or give over. . . But, be patient! Like the dormant winter grass, the most important growth is underground . . . hidden deep within the roots of our character. Farmers understand the value of preparing soil for the growing season. Even the home landscapers and weed and feed at various times of the year to enhance root growth and soil production. We cannot see the work going on, but there is work! The result comes in the spring when the bulbs bloom and the grass begins to turn a rich green color. Eagles are perfectly happy flying alone, high above the others. Marathon runners have no problem running ahead of the pack on lonely trails in any weather. As believers, and especially those in ministry, we often run alone or in a vacuum. Sometimes we go unnoticed. However, do not give up hope . . .
Those who wait upon the Lord won’t be put to shame; and in due time, God will reveal everything He’s grown in you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Do we really think we can hide from God?

Go to the great city of Nineveh. Preach against it. The sins of its people have come to my attention.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord. He headed for Tarshish. So he went down to the port of Joppa. There he found a ship that was going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board. Then he sailed for Tarshish. He was running away from the Lord. (Jonah 1:2-3)
Jonah was such a fool wasn't he? So we too are fools many times in our lives! What Jonah did is exactly what we do over and over again in our lives . . . we choose our way over God's will. Then we believe that we can get away with it with no consequences! Foolishness . . . .
Do we really think we can hide from God?
Let's look back at the choices we've made to try to do things our way. . . nights we've laid awake with a knot in our stomach, full of fear and anxiety about things that we could not change anyway. We numb ourselves with food, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, or something else that was not the answer we were looking for anyway. In the end we felt more empty than the day before.
Why do we torment ourselves?
Like Jonah, what we need to do is humble ourselves and surrender our wills to God. We need to agree that God wants what is best for us and it would be best to do what He says to do! Perhaps we need to get to know God a little better . . . spend more time with Him than with others or other things!
How can I get away from your Spirit? Where can I go to escape from you? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in the deepest parts of the earth, you are also there. Suppose I were to rise with the sun in the east and then cross over to the west where it sinks into the ocean. Your hand would always be there to guide me. Your right hand would still be holding me close. Suppose I were to say, “I’m sure the darkness will hide me. The light around me will become as dark as night.” Even that darkness would not be dark to you. The night would shine like the day, because darkness is like light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Culturally relevant, but not culturally ruined!

The mountains of Bashan are majestic. The mountains of Bashan are very rocky. You rocky mountains are jealous of Mount Zion, aren’t you? That’s where God chooses to rule. That’s where the Lord himself will live forever.(Psalm 68:15-16)
As believers, do we make folks jealous? Do they want what we have? Or rather, are we chasing after what the world offers? This is indeed a challenge for most of us. David here writes that the mountains of Bashan are jealous that God chose Mount Zion as His dwelling place. God chose us as His children. In return, do we make people jealous that God chose us? Do we act in such a way that people want to be like us or are we trying our best to fit in with those of the world? Our job is not to fit in, but to stand out! Listen to the words of Jesus:
You did not choose me. Instead, I chose you. I appointed you to go and bear fruit. It is fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you anything you ask for in my name. “Here is my command. Love each other. The World Hates the Disciples “Does the world hate you? Remember that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you like one of its own. But you do not belong to the world. I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:16-19)
For the world to be jealous of us we must be different. Yes, we must be culturally relevant, but not culturally ruined! We must understand the culture in order to relate the Word of God to those in our circles. However, we must be careful not to allow the culture to ruin us! We cannot be so deep into looking like the world that we get lost in the world. We need to be like magnets drawing people from the world to Christ. Like the coffee bean in a cup of hot water, we need to change the environment when we enter a room. As the bean turns the water into a warm tasty cup of java, we have the ability to turn our environment from a bitter and unforgiving scene into a warm and grace-filled room. Do not allow the heat of the world to turn us into a hard-boiled egg or a mushy vegetable. To cause others to want what we have in Christ, we must live as if we are already in heaven . . . because spiritually speaking we are!
Our world view comes from the pages of Scripture, not TMZ, MTV, BET, or even the nightly news!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

We are who we are . . .

A man struggled with him until morning. The man saw that he couldn’t win. So he touched the inside of Jacob’s hip. As Jacob struggled with the man, Jacob’s hip was twisted. Then the man said, “Let me go. It is morning.” But Jacob replied, “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will not be Jacob anymore. Instead, it will be Israel. You have struggled with God and with men. And you have won.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob there. So Jacob named the place Peniel. He said, “I saw God face to face. But I’m still alive!”(Genesis 32:24-30)
Have you permitted the pain of your wrestling matches to grow you into a better, more caring person? Allow God to unfold more of His beauty and grace and love in your life. Is there a better way? God has a history of taking the least of all and raising them up. He has taken the weakest one and strengthened him. He takes the most insecure and fills him with courage. He takes the least and makes the most. All we have to do is surrender to Him. So, whatever our limp is, we must choose to walk with it and not hide it. It is who we are, and He is molding us into a masterpiece. We are who we are because of our painful past. God accepts us right where we are, limp and all. I hope and pray that today we can begin to embrace the one God has made and allow Him to use us to His glory.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I shared some verses (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13) with the students at school as we discussed toys.
They should be happy and do good while they live. I know there’s nothing better for them to do than that. 13 Everyone should eat and drink. People should be satisfied with all of their hard work. That is God’s gift to them.
Toys, either for children or adults, can keep us from vital relationships. While Solomon reminds us that He wants us to enjoy life as we work, we cannot get so caught up in the "enjoyment" that we forget the important things in life (relationships with God and people). As adults, let's examine our toys: jobs, electronics, cars, fashion. Do these "toys" keep us from our devotion to the One who grants us these toys? Do they keep us from sincere relationships with the people God has placed into our lives?
While our toys might be able to enhance relationships . . do they?
Do we allow our children to be drawn away as well as we use video games, tablets, and headphones to babysit them?
Work hard . . . play hard . . . worship even harder!

It's ok . . . God loves me! Really?

Let us hold firmly to the hope we claim to have. The One who promised is faithful. Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return. What if we keep sinning on purpose? What if we do it even after we know the truth? Then there is no offering for our sins. All we can do is to wait in fear for God to judge. His blazing fire will burn up his enemies. (Hebrews 10:23-27)
It's ok . . . God loves me! Have you heard this comment recently? Many believe they belong to God and are saved yet continue in sin, showing no guilt or shame. Many come to regular worship without any conviction. Others feel as though it is enough to be saved yet they have no relationship with fellow believers nor do they desire any.
You see, God did not call us out of a sinful condition for us to remain there. If I recall, Jesus, when He was walking the earth, requested folks to "Follow Me!" (Matthew 16:24) Being a follower of Jesus Christ, a CHRISTian, requires commitment and change!
Paul reminds us in the Hebrews 10 passage above that it is not about us or even how much God loves us, but our CHRISTian life is about our relationship with others and how we live among them. We cannot say we love God and continue in sin. We cannot call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ and not enjoy the fellowship of true and dedicated believers. We also cannot sit idly by and watch others live a lie when concerning the Word of God and the demands of the Gospel! Please do not listen to the watered-down, dummied-down, ear-tickling words of many today. God's Word is still His Word and still perfect for living, discipline, and bringing people back to the Truth!
God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, a man of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Are you able to pray?

The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need. (Psalm 23:1)
Good morning and Happy New Year! Thank you for praying for me, my family and our ministry to teens and families! Well, we have reached 2014 and are entering into the new year fully expecting God to work! How we will respond is the topic of my prayer request. As you have been informed it was a very challenging few months to end the year. Faced with financial challenges to the ministry, we were forced to work outside the ministry as my wife and I both worked two part-time jobs while maintaining our meetings with the teens and families we serve on weekends. While we are very grateful to those who assisted us in obtaining those jobs, it was indeed a physical and mental toll upon the family as a whole. Yet God saw fit to keep us in our home and met our needs! He remains faithful! As you may also know, since our jobs revolve around school and church, there has been no work (or pay) since the CHRISTmas break began on December 20. We are thankful for the time with family and friends, but . . .
We are asking for prayer that God will grant us favor with the mortgage company, utilities, and other creditors. We realize that God goes through these valleys with us and we trust Him, but at times it still takes a toll on us! We cherish your prayers and encouragement. During our yearly week sabbatical (Jan 12-19) we will once again be re-thinking, strategizing, and praying about how to restructure the ministry to better serve God and the teenagers. Please seek the Lord with us during this week.
Securing financial support for missions work is such a struggle these days as many are financially challenged. To be honest, many nights I stay awake and ask God why He even called us and what do we have to do to serve Him more efficiently and how do we get it across to others the need for partnership. I feel like I am letting God and my family down much of the time. Many of you realize this and have been sacrificially supporting The Sparrows’ Nest Ministries for a long time. We are so grateful. Please continue to pray for God’s favor and that He will raise up more to catch the vision of TSN Ministries and our heart to serve and not to ever quit! We meet weekly with eleven teenagers ages 13-18 for up to six hours. They have questions, desires, and decisions that they discuss with us. They truly want to please God and not be like the rest of their peers! Are you willing to ask God how you can partner with TSN Ministries to meet their needs?
$200.00 a month will provide for our ministry needs concerning telecommunications, internet, and the like. $100.00 a month will meet the transportation needs of our program. Just $50.00 a month will provide snacks, meals, drinks for our time together. In fact, whatever pledge you can make will go directly toward program costs and also be tax-deductible! Contact us at our web site: www.tsnministries.org or e-mail me at jcforkids@tsnministries.org.
God bless you!
The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need. He lets me lie down in fields of green grass. He leads me beside quiet waters. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths for the honor of his name. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid. You are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff comfort me. You prepare a feast for me right in front of my enemies. You pour oil on my head. My cup runs over. I am sure that your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And I will live in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23: 1- 6)

one stable foundation,

Then  as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings  are here! ” ...