Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardis Gras and Me

Mardi Gras “ is a lively, colorful celebration held on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins ,” says the World Book Encyclopedia. It “ goes back to an ancient Roman custom of merrymaking before a period of fast. ” In places like New Orleans, the period of merrymaking with fancy balls and parades goes on for weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday itself. Today, February 28, 2017, is known throughout many places and Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, or "Mardis Gras" in French. Today marks the end of Mardi Gras celebrations around the world. Some will have pancakes for dinner. Some will eat King Cake and wear beads. Others will see how much trouble they can get into. . . all this leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season.
Paul reminds us that "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so GRACE might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:20-21)
So whether you will celebrate, eat all the sweets you can handle, or have a pancake eating contest, the real Reason for the Season is still the Savior! As believers, we are looking forward to His return and doing what is necessary to prepare our hearts properly. So Lent, the forty days before Resurrection Day, we give up pleasures. We focus upon Christ and His giving up Himself for each of us. We focus upon our God who gives us pleasure in knowing He alone can save us from this world. Lent then, is a time of repentance, prayer, and focus. Are you ready? Are YOU prepared? He is coming back . . .Now that will be a PARTY!

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Lifestyle of Giving

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap, IF we do Not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
One would think this verse from Paul is easy to understand. However, he is not simply talking about giving someone a bottle of water or sharing a lunch. He is not talking about donating a few dollars to a collection or a few pieces of clothing for the local shelter. No, Paul is speaking of a "lifestyle" of sacrifice and giving. Let's think about this as we enter the Lenten Season . . . God gave! He GIVES constantly. We all receive His grace and mercy everyday!!! The CHRIST-follower's life is to be known as one that is giving, sacrificial, and agape love. Do not look for reward or recognition. Know that God is pleased and if we continue in this kind of living, God alone will see and reward us in His time, according to His plan!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fasting For God and His Purposes

Many are "fasting" this weekend around the world to assist World Vision in the 30-Hour Famine to bring light and attention to the issue of world hunger. We too will be joining in as the weekend begins. However, the "famine" we partake in is not about us, but our reliance upon our God and prayer, to change not only the lives of the millions of hungry children and families, but the hunger inside of each of us to know our Lord and Savior in a more personal way.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for,they disfigure their faces to show others they are Fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father Who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.(Matthew 6:16-18)
"Fasting" is a very important spiritual discipline often misused or even forgotten in today's CHRISTIann circles. We often here of various fasting plans, but many are now done for weight loss or general health and have nothing if little to do with spiritual goals. However, if we research the Bible, from Moses, to Daniel, to Esther, the prophet Joel, Nehemiah as he prepared to go back and build the wall, David on many occasions, and even Jesus as He began His earthly ministry . . . .fasting was and IS a vital part of a believer's life. Fasting not only brings one closer to God, but also brings one closer to the needs of others! As we turn over our plates so to say, we focus our attention on the Lord, His provisions, others' needs, and the Spirit's control over our very own selfish desires. We begin to recognize how weak we are physically and how extremely dependent we are upon our God. When the disciples could not heal the epileptic boy, they were confused as to why they could not, yet Jesus did. Jesus replied to them,"However, this kind (a demon) does not go out except by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:21)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Called and Accountable

Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report . . . If there is ANY virtue and if there is ANYTHING praiseworthy, meditate on THESE things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these DO, and the God of peace WILL be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
To "meditate" is to think deeply or to focus one's mind for a period of time. It refers to planning mentally and to "consider". Paul reminds us here in these verses to focus our minds and to seriously consider these things . . .Godly characteristics if you would, in order to truly live for God and to experience His peace. In order to live a life that not only pleases God but also brings us joy, we cannot be caught up in the pleasures nor the pains of this world! Too much of a good thing can indeed be dangerous. Focusing on the negatives will also harm us. There must be a balance. There must be the focus upon God's truths and His instruction. Paul also reminds young and old alike that the things we have had modeled before us, the things we have been taught, we are to DO! I think I can also hear James saying to be DOERS of the Word . . .not simply HEARERS! (James 1:22)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Growing in Faith

But for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness LOVE. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
What is Peter talking about? What "reason" does he give for us to add all these things to our faith in Christ? Why is faith not enough? It is because He has given to us a share in His divine nature . . . that is, we can now be freed from the wrath and punishment of sin because of His sacrifice! Why should we not just "sit upon our faith"? Once saved by His grace, we are to explore and expand the very nature of God that He has implanted within us; His virtue (moral standards), His knowledge, His patience, His meekness or self-control, and His kindness and agape love toward all men and women. We are called to pursue the things of God once we answer His call to salvation. We are not saved to sit still and wait for Him to return. We are called to grow and serve . . . to labor in His Kingdom . . . to work and mature in faith and action. We are commanded to "go" and make other disciples or followers of Christ. We do this by action, not simply a thought or an idea! We want to be found working when He returns!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Young men . . .Do Not be Disqualified!

Moreover, he must have a good testimony among those who are OUTSIDE, lest he fall into reproachand the snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
It's tough to be a guy! While we all love our moms and respect all the ladies go through, it is still tough being a guy . . . especially an CHRIST-led young man! There is so much temptation available for the young male today. Yet men are still held accountable by God to lead by example and to not back down to the call of BIBLICAL manhood! The younger age it is taught, learned, and required the better! Once a man marries, his life becomes a total life of sacrifice and service (Ephesians 5:25). So young men, seek wisdom and knowledge from seasoned men in the faith. Young ladies, demand it from your male peers . . .require it! Single moms, teach it and require it from your sons and lead them to mature men of the faith. Dads . . .God is holding us accountable not only to teach it, but to live it out loud in front of our wife, children, and all the world to see!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Celebrations a Legacy

The spirituals embody the faith and heritage of a people who have encountered the dehumanizing effects of slavery and racism. Enslaved for nearly three hundred years, the collective creators of these songs sang about the suffering they endured: “Nobody knows the trouble I see, nobody knows my sorrow; nobody knows the trouble I see, Glory, Hallelujah!” Despite the overwhelming despair, they never lost sight of their faith. As preservers of this dynamic faith and heritage, the spirituals helped sustain the enslaved community. They served not only as a means of education and worship. They gave the community a way to express its deepest aspirations for freedom and social change. As a form of covert communication in the resistance struggle for liberation, the spirituals often signaled impending escapes or secret gatherings. (The Bible in Song, Yolanda Y.Smith, Yale Divinity School)
I have over the years gained the utmost respect and been so humbled by the things I have read and heard about the experiences of the African American. I have grown to love the songs as well. To me, they embody the faith, hope, assurance, strength, and confidence in the most challenging of situations. Faith in a God who can overcome. Hope in the Words of a conquering King. Assurance that God indeed knows and hears and will fight with us. Confidence in the worst of conditions. Life when all life seems lost. Tremendous strength, when all physical strength had been drained. Looking back with admiration and even pride, but also real shame on the part of people who look like me as well, the words of Paul seem even more real today . . .
I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Yes, WE can and WILL overcome one day!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When the Seas Get Rough . . .

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5)
If you are anything like me, there are numerous times you think out loud . . .even SCREAM out loud, "God, where are You? Do You see what is going on?" I cannot help but think of Peter as he spotted Jesus on the water:
Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." (Matthew 14:28)
As we go through struggles in life and we call upon the Lord, we have to stay focused upon Him. Like Peter, if we take our eyes off of Him for even a second, we will find ourselves drowning in fear, confusion, and doubt. Once we try to figure out things in our own mind, we begin to lose focus on God's plans. Despite the distractions, we must keep our eyes, our minds, and our hearts on Jesus and His Word. When the waters get deep . . .when the waves become rough . . .when we are in over our heads . . .this is when THE Lifeguard beckons us to walk on top of our troubles and to come to Him! Go ahead . . .step out of the boat . . .take a step . . .Trust Him!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Day After Letdown

Sometimes there is a letdown after a special day. We did not receive what we wanted or we did not hear the words we were longing to hear . . . Not so with Jesus!
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of TRUTH, the GOSPEL of your salvation, in Whom also, having believed, you were SEALED with the HOLY SPIRIT of promise, Who is the GUARANTEE of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Who hearing or reading these words is more powerful than God? Does anyone think that they could possibly undo the grip that the Creator of this world has upon them? No amount of human strength can EVER compare to the might of El Shaddia . . .The Almighty God? Once one has heard the Gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and has trusted His atonement upon the cross for their sins, he or she is SEALED by God the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption . . .the day we stand before El Shaddia and He proclaims "Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into your rest!"(Matthew 25:21) We cannot out do what God has done! No sin is greater than Jesus' redemptive blood! Do not allow Satan to trick you. Trust in God and His Word. Stand upon His promises. Keep pressing onward and upward!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love . . .LOVE . . . L...O...V...E!!!!!!

Greater love has NO man than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. (John 15:13)
LOVE is so overused today. Everybody LOVES everybody. We LOVE the dog. WE LOVE our jobs. We LOVE our cars. We even LOVE the food we eat! But think about it . . .what is LOVE really? First off, it is from God and defined by God God IS love.(1 John 4:8) We only know the meaning of love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) If we do not love God than how can we even think of loving others? (1 John 4:20) You see, yet while we still sinners and enemies of God, Jesus died for us! (Romans 5:8) So on this Valentine's Day . . A day to express our love to those precious to us, let us first LOVE God! Let us give Him His due. Let us ❤️ as He loves . . .unconditionally, sacrificially, and completely!

Monday, February 13, 2017

No Room at This Inn . . . Not Today, Not EVER!!!

I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial CHRISTianity of Christ . . . I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. (Frederick Douglas)
Even today, we have our individual and group views of the Bible. On Sunday mornings, we tend to be more segregated than at any other time. This cannot please the God Who created each of us in His likeness!
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
We must stand together TODAY and declare that there is NO room for racism in our churches or in the CHRISTian life!

Friday, February 10, 2017

When God Calls Us to "Stay"

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.(Ephesians 3:14-21)
We all know about the call from God to "Go!". Go and tell . . .Go and make disciples . . . God told Abraham to "go" and He told Moses to "go". Day after day we hear from God to "go" and do one thing or another. For me, those challenges are not quite as hard as the challenges to "stay"! Many times in our CHRISTian journey we are called to do just that . . ."STAY!" Some are called to stay in a difficult marriage. Some are called to stay at a job that is challenging, even to our faith. Others are called to stay in a home or a school that is not the best of circumstances. These are the times when we must embrace the grace He gives to "stay". . . . to remain . . . knowing He will be faithful and provide all we need to accomplish His will. God will be faithful in any circumstance, going or staying, to all who trust and obey! His love, His grace, His ways pass all of our understanding. One day we will understand more fully!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Responding to Sin

How do we respond to sin? In this world, we see it every day. We have been desensitized for sure. We excuse it. We tolerate it. We even hope it will simply go away! When we see someone react in a Godly way toward sin, we call them "extreme" or "judgmental". Ezra had it right:
Now, therefore, make confession to the LordGod of your fathers, and DO HIS WILL; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives. (Ezra 10:11)
Our response to sin today cannot continue to be to look the other way, deny it, or hope and pray it will go away. We must take a strong stand against sin and the root of it. We must call it sin and deal with it. We must confess it and repent of it in our lives. We must correct it in our children's lives. We must remove ourselves from it in our social lives! The more we tolerate sin the more we become part of it. Do we need an Ezra today or will WE be the Ezra and take a stand?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Healthy Fear

Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are The God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. (Psalm 25:4-5)
What are you looking forward to today? Easter Break . . . Summer vacation . . . A birthday party or some other special event? David was looking forward to spending time with God! No wonder he is known for being "after God's own heart"! At the time of David, there was no Savior yet. There was no "grace" if you would. When one sinned, he had to seek God immediately with a sacrifice. There was a real "fear" of God! There was a healthy "respect" of God! Do we look forward to our prayer time? Do we seek His grace and mercy day after day? Do we realize how desperately wicked we are before God and how gracious and merciful He is toward us? Do we stand in awe of Him and give Him the respect He is due? Our life still depends upon God. Seek after Him. Yearn for Him. Learn of Him. Live for Him! After all . . . .He alone IS God!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Am NOT Black, You are NOT White.

Where are the Answers?

"You do not want to leave too, do you?", Jesus asked the twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God."(John 6:67-69)
It's quite alright to have questions at times regarding faith. After all, we live in a world where there are so many opinions and versions of truth! Please understand that we all go through periods of doubt, anxieties, and fears. That's part of our HUMAN nature. However, for the believer, the Spirit of God within us will relieve those doubts. Even though Peter would eventually deny Jesus, his foundation of faith brought him back. As you have questions . . .and you will . . .know where to go for the answers. Do not go to the world. Do not go to someone you know does not have faith. Do not go to Wikipedia!!!! Go to The Source. Go to God (James 1:5). Go to seasoned Christ followers. Go to someone you can trust. Questions bring answers. Not asking questions will cause doubt to grow. So ask away . . .we all will grow from it!

Monday, February 6, 2017

God is my G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)

When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)
Ok, I must finally admit, Tom Brady is probably the G.O.A.T. . . . at least as far as quarterbacks are concerned. After five super bowl rings and last nights game, I must consider him to be G.O.A.T.-worthy. I also will still take Joe Flacco over Matty melt-down . . . but I have digressed! I have witnessed many such athletes in my lifetime; Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Unitas, Dr. J, Ray Lewis, and my all-time favorite and personal hero, Frank Robinson. However, none . . .absolutely NONE, can compare to the ultimate G.O.A.T. He is GOD! He is Creator. He is sustainer. He is provider. He is protector. He is Alpha and Omega . . .Beginning and the End. He was there before it all began. When they tried to kill Him, He was the ultimate "comeback kid", rising from death to life. And guess what? He is coming back to claim His trophy, His crown, His people! There is no champion like my God. There is no sudden death victory like exiting the grave and letting everyone know He will NEVER lose! Whose side are you on today? Don't just be a FAN of God, but be a FOLLOWER!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Tetelestai.....T.G.I.F.!

Te-tel-es-tai . . .Greek for "It is finished." (John 19:30)
In Koine Greek, the common language of the day, Jesus said "Tetelestai". It was His sixth statement upon the cross. In His day, this would mean that a transaction was completed. Something good had been achieved. Jesus had completed His task and achieved His goal of laying His life down for you and I. He had done His work! On this Friday, we can surely and gladly say, "TGIF . . ."Thank God 'IT IS FINISHED'". Thank God we have come to the end of another week for sure. However, for we who trust Jesus with our very lives, we can say every day, "Thank God it has been completed upon the cross!" You see, for many, they are attempting to "work" their way to heaven. They are trying to get to God through religious actions and practices. They believe the lie that we earn our way to God. Yet Jesus paid the price on Calvary. He redeemed our lost soul. He purchased our eternal lives with His blood. He was a perfect sacrifice for an imperfect man . . .you and me. Embrace the finished work of Jesus the Christ upon the cross. Accept what was paid for your soul and mine today. Yet do not simply embrace the cross, take it up and now follow in His steps. Follow His plan. My prayer is the we allow Him to "work" in and through each of us!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Embrace the Race

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
I often wonder how Paul did it. First of all, how did he handle the confrontation with Jesus Himself? Could you imagine Christ stopping you in the middle of your daily routine and asking you a question like, "Why are you persecuting Me?" Then Paul goes on to live a life solely focused upon the conversion of souls to Christ! Just like that, he decides to accept the challenge and allow Christ to transform his life! But is was NOT easy! Paul was not trusted by his new found Christ following friends and hated by his former Jewish comrades. He was chased down, beaten, arrested, left for dead, and when he asked the Lord for a bit of relief, the response was, "My GRACE is sufficient." So Paul "embraced the race" and ran it with endurance, all the way to the finish. GRACE . . .umerited favor . . .receiving what we do not deserve. We who follow Christ have received that same grace. We have been forgiven by a holy God when we deserve eternal death. We have received an opportunity for an eternal relationship with the Creator of this entire world, the One holding the world in His hands, yet what are we doing with it? Are we embracing Him and the life He offers? Like Paul, do we embrace the challenges of the CHRISTian life knowing it is CHRIST living in and through us, or do we grumble and complain? Do we run FROM what He has for us, or run TO Him? When we are weak in our walk with Jesus, His Spirit becomes stronger and takes lead. Allow the Holy Spirit to take over and receive His power day after day. Embrace the race of CHRISTian living!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Not "feelin it"? JUST DO IT!!!

Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: "For yet a little while, and He Who IS coming WILL come and not tarry. Now then, the just shall live by faith . . . (Hebrews 10:35-37)
I must admit, sometimes, as a CHRIST-follower, I just do not feel like it! I don't feel like the effort, the time, the sacrifice, or the complaining and criticism. Anyone with me on this? Yet, because of all CHRIST has done for me . . .for each of us, we must . . . I must! Who will if we do not? God invites us to join Him in His work "Who will go for us?", He asks in Isaiah 6:8. Isaiah replies, "Here am I, send ME!" As much as we may FEEL like it, we can never give up. We mean too much to God. He should mean too much to us. I may be tired, irritated, weary, and beat . . .but so was Jesus. It's when we are weak that He is strong . . .just do it!!!

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! ” ...