A Heart For The Nations

As long as I can remember I have always been keenly interested in other cultures.  When I was a kid someone from "out of town" really caught my interest.  When I was a kid our next door neighbors (from up north) hosted two cousins about my age also from up north.  I was fascinated that they called the sofa (we just called it the couch) the "davenport".  A family once moved to my home town.  I got to know one of the boys my age.  I was intrigued to know they ate "biscuits and gravy" every single morning for breakfast.  We ate eggs and bacon so I just assumed everyone else in the world did the same.  The very woman I married 36 years ago (and still married to) was from out of town.  I was intrigued at the beautiful girl (hottie) from Alabama.

I guess that's why I have such a keen, interest in the nations of the world.  Of course God has everything to do with that.  But as a child, before I met Jesus, He was already preparing me with a heart for other peoples.  

When I was 17 I traveled to Mexico City with the Mississippi Lions Allstate Band.  It was an incredible experience.  Mexico is not the farthest place from the U.S., but it is definitely a different culture.  I was walking with Jesus when I joined the Air Force, and my first assignment after tech school was three years in Germany.  What an experience!  While in Germany we visited several of the European nations.  I was also assigned temporary duty in Saudi Arabia for seven weeks.  The time in Saudi was a milestone for my Christian walk.  Talk about culture shock!  In 1991 I was able to return to Mexico...this time as a short-term missionary.  In 1997, I visited India for the first time as a pastor simply to check up on the ministry we were supporting as a church.  It changed my life!  Since then I have made 8 trips to India.  My affiliation with the folks in India has influenced my walk more than any other.  However, my love for the nations is even broader.  In 2000 God opened the door for me to go to Guatemala for the first time (and several since).  Then in 2007 I was able to visit Honduras two times and planning future trips.  Visiting other nations and cultures has given me what I believe is a more proper perspective on my place in God's universe.

There is something deeply spiritually significant in the heart of God about the nations of the earth.  In His eyes He is the Lord of all.  In His heart, He longs for praise and worship from every culture.  There is something eternally significant about the nations.  I believe that all the diversity of every culture comes from His heart.  However, He is the only God.  I've been so blessed to hear passionate worship coming from the lips of Indian people, Hispanic people, German people, Saudi, Pakistani, British people and more.  But the cry is to ONE God!  I believe part of the significance of having a heart for the nations is that all the diversity points us to just ONE God!

In case you haven't heard...the earth is not flat and the universe does not revolve around our nation!  The universe revolves around ONE God!  From every nation people are crying to Him from the depths of their hearts!  God is not glorified in and from our nation alone.  No, He is glorified from every nation on earth.  That makes us ONE...no matter what nation or culture we are from.

And finally, in heaven...when all is said and done.  God's throne will not be surrounded with just Americans.  No...it will be surrounded with folks from every single tribe, every single tongue, and every single nation!  To have a heart for the nations is actually having a heart for God's kingdom and His heaven, and God's heart is expressed through those who love Him.

Can You Hear That Squeak?

Yesterday I dropped my car off at the shop to have a really, really loud grinding noise, from under the hood, checked out.  As a matter of fact, someone told me they heard me drive up because the noise was so loud from across the parking lot.  Have you ever noticed little noises coming from your car?  I don't know if it's just me, but if the noise is not too loud I don't seem to take it too seriously.  What began several months ago as a little squeak coming from under the hood of my car ended up as a loud grinding roar yesterday as I pulled up to work.  This fully mature squeak cost me over $700!  You see, my air conditioner compressor died several months back but I didn't realize it until yesterday.  It's kind of like the opossum that dies under your house but you don't know it until you smell the stench a few days later.  I knew my car needed some attention because the cooling ability left the building at the beginning of the Fall.  But, since winter was coming and of course, the squeak was barely audible...I put it off until the heat of Summer arrives again.  

What I didn't know was that one fan belt drives not only my a/c compressor, but the fan, alternator and other things.  The grinding noise was a signal from my car to me that it was about to break down.  The a/c compressor was about to lock up which would cause the belt to pop and disable the entire vehicle!  The place where I work also has an auto center on the premises.  When I arrived at work yesterday, it was quite evident that I would not make the 55 mile trip back home without surrendering my car to the auto mechanics.  I was thinking, "Surely it won't be too serious.  Right?"  Not so right.  It cost me over $700 to get back home.  Add to that a four hour wait...past the time they said I could pick it up!

A particular scripture began to call my name after I got back home last night.  That Scripture is Proverbs 16: 9, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."  I was actually scheduled to be off at 3:00 pm.  The mechanics said they would have the car repaired by then.  I drove off the premises just before 7:00 pm!  My day was ruined!  I hadn't planned on a 4 hour delay to ruin my plans!  When I arrived home Connie had a "word" for me.  She said, "Isn't God good to have let you make it all the way to work (55 miles) and to the shop without breaking down on the road somewhere?"  I knew she was right!  I knew that even though my plans were ruined, God's plans for me superceded mine.  I got a clue that God's plans for me included my complete safety, the repair of my car, and a safe trip home...even if it was four hours later than planned!  

There are so many times when we make our plans.  Sometimes those plans are in accordance with God's, meaning that He directs our steps according to those plans.  But there are other times (like yesterday for me) when my plans are not according to God's plans.  We may make our plans, but God determines our steps.  These times are the hardest for me...at least at first.  But our incredible God has an uncanny way of showing us through circumstances, that even though it's not our plan, He still determines our steps!  I find so much peace in knowing that when things get shaky...He is still in control.   Is He good or what?

6 Days In A Row

It's a beautiful Saturday in Mississippi.  Today is actually the 6th straight day with sunshine.  That may not seem like a great thing to you, but this being an El Nino season, we've seen more than our share of rain!  Sunshine 6 days in a row is something to write home about!  Adding to that a temperature that may bust 65 degrees makes it even more delightful!  It is days like today that kind of make me feel I can do anything.  You know...if I can trudge through the rainy, cold (this year snowy) days, I can soar on days like today!

I must say, it is the rainy, cold, soggy days that cause me to appreciate days like today.  If I don't experience those days I have a tendency to take the sunny, warmer days for granted.  Up until a little more than a year ago we experienced a 3-year drought.  Day after day of sunshine.  I'm telling you, sunshine in abundance and sometimes weeks without rain.  I told God I would never complain about the rain again!  Even in our current El Nino year (which means more rain than we need or want), I have not complained about the rain.  There is a blessing in seeing the ponds and lakes full instead of empty.  And again, it makes me appreciate a sunny, warmer day like today.

Paul writes in the Bible, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."  How did he learn that?  Paul further said, "...In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."   Paul is saying that the secret to negotiating each day successfully is contentment.  Back to rainy days and sunny days...the rainy helps me to appreciate the sunny.  If it's raining today where you are, make the most of it...and be encouraged because another sunny day (or 2) is coming. 

Paul went on to say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  If contentment is the key to success, the truth is Jesus is the key to contentment.  He is the light of the world.  His light shines even on rainy days.  Perhaps you're going through a rainy season in your life.  Let me encourage you by saying that Jesus is the key to contentment in your life.  Seek the light of His love and let Him warm you from the inside out during what is a rainy season in your life.  Just as rainy days come and go, this season will also come to an end in your life.  But don't wait till the season ends to begin rejoicing. Go ahead and rejoice now that you trully can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!

As I said before, I am loving the sunny days (6 in a row).  All the rain has caused me to greatly appreciate the sun today.  I think I'll just soar awhile today because guess what...it's supposed to rain tomorrow!  Really.

What's Your Goal?

Let me pose a question to you.  What is your goal as a Christ-follower?  This question is not directed to church-goers (even though you may attend a church faithfully).  This question is not directed to pastors, preachers, and church leaders (even though you may be a pastor, preacher, or a church leader).  This question is to those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ by receiving the complete work of the cross that He died on.  This question is directed to those who have a genuine, growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  The question again...what is your goal?  Is it to go to seminary?  Perhaps your goal is to memorize as much scripture as you can fit into your brain during your life.  Perhaps you goal is to reconcile with every enemy you acquired before you met Jesus.  But what is your goal?

Let me submit to you that there is only one goal for the Christ-follower.  If we can focus on this one goal, we reach our fullest potential in Christ!  If our focus is on this one goal, we will grow as a born again believer.  We will not remain a child in Christ, but we will grow up in every aspect into Jesus.  What is that goal?  It is very simple.  It is clearly outlined in the Word.  Paul states it in I Timothy 1: 5, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."  Our reason for maturity in Christ is for the purpose of love (or expressing love).  Love (according to Paul) can only come from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a genuine faith."  Every message you feed on, every second of your quiet time, all the formal training, every prayer you offer up, every life experience as a Christian, every second in His tangible presence, and so on...propels you toward just one goal...love.  As you probably know, life itself is designed to mold and discipline the Christ-follower as we learn to trust God through every season.  We find in the Proverbs that whom God loves, He disciplines as a father would discipline his own son.  This too contributes toward the goal of love for you and me.  According to Paul in I Corinthians 13, "Love never fails".  Jesus tells us that all of the Law and the Prophets (from the Old Testament) hang on just two greater laws "You shall love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Jesus said all of the Law is fulfilled in love.  It's all about love!   God's love.  God's love in you and me.  That's our goal in Christ.

Even though God's love resides in you the instant you receive Him, it is not fully realized until we grow in Him.  God's love is not automatic in that we are totally zapped (personality-wise) into a love machine when we are introduced to Him.  But we must be instructed, trained, and disciplined - day in and day out, growing up in Him, and offering to others the same love He has given to us.  That's your goal!

All Roads Lead To Rome

It is often said that "all roads lead to Rome," and in fact, they once did. The road system of the Ancient Roman Empire was one of the greatest engineering feats of its time, with over 50,000 miles of paved road radiating from their center at the miliarius aurem in the Forum in the city of Rome. Although the Roman road system was originally built to facilitate the movement of troops throughout the empire, it was inevitably used for other purposes such as trade, and by civilians then and now.

There are many, many religions in the world today.  All of them proclaim to lead to God (or at least the god (or gods) of their religion.  Wikipedia says...[In religion and theology, "universalism" is a principle that asserts that all people are under the consideration and love of God, and that theological concepts (doctrines) which conform to this concept are in fact more in accord with the divine concepts.]  Simply stated, "all religions lead to God".  As the mindset that man is basically good within himself spreads in these last days, more and more people will be deluded into believing that salvation in Christ is not necessary.  

The Bible makes it very clear about the road to salvation.  The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1: 15 - 18, "He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - for all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."  In other words, it is all about Jesus!  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father (Father God) but through me!"  He said in John 11: 25, "I am the resurrection and the life..."  To sum up what Paul said, Jesus is:  the head, the beginning, the firstborn, and first place in everything!  He is the icon of God, the creator of all things, before all things, and He holds all things together.  It is truly All about Jesus.

Today's world is full of religions that seemingly offer many ways to God.  But the only way to the true God, Jehovah God, is through Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for our sins.  Jesus said the way is very broad and the gate extremely wide that leads to destruction.  But the way to eternal life with God is very narrow and the gate is very small.  What Jesus was saying is that there is only ONE way, and the road that leads to the gate into heaven is narrow and small.  All roads may lead to Rome, but only one leads to God, the Father.  That road is Jesus!

My Good Thing!

The Bible says "He who finds a wife finds a good thing."  I've been blessed by my "Good Thing" for the past 36 years.  As a matter of fact, today is our 36th anniversary.  Connie and I know that no one is perfect.  However, what ever God blesses, ordains, or gives has a supernatural "divine" element to it.  We both can look back and see the hand of God on our marriage.  It started out without His hand.  And when our marriage almost derailed at 4 and a half years, we turned our lives (and our marriage) over to Him.  From that very point in the late 70's God was involved in our marriage, and it has been wonderful.

The first thing (and one of the most important things) I learned about marriage was that it was created and instituted by God!  God intends for a man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.  When a man (and a woman) do this...God blesses the marriage!  When problems and simple challenges arise along the way, we should take our marriage to God for repairs.  Why?  Because He created and instituted marriage.  When my car needs some professional attention I don't take it to Radio Shack.  Why?  Because they didn't create my car!

The greatest joy of my life (outside from my relationship with Christ) is the relationship with Connie.  Connie is my gift.  I tell God daily that I understand Connie is my gift from Him.  And I thank God daily for the incredible gift of my wife.  God has given me my wife as my soul mate, my life partner, and my companion.  We take on life together.  Together we tread through the thick and glide through the thin.  Nothing we encounter individually is excluded from tackling it jointly!  Connie is part of me, and I am a part of her.  Jesus said "The two shall be come one flesh".

On this day in which we celebrate our 36th anniversary I say again..."Thank you Jesus for saving my marriage and my family years back.  Thank you for blessing our marriage.  Thank you for the wonderful gift of the Good Thing from you.  You have made it possible and we owe it all to you!"  I say to my wonderful bride, "Thank you for loving me the way you do!  I you know who and how I am!  You are truly anointed with God's awesome grace to love me the way you do.  Thank you for sharing your life with me and sharing in my life.  You are truly the Woman of my dreams, the Joy of my heart, and the Love of my life!" 

Give God your marriage.  Live for Him.  Do what He says and enjoy the divine blessings of God in and on your marriage.  He made marriage.  Give it over to Him if you have not already.

And finally, to the love of my life...Connie, Happy Anniversary Darling, I love you so much!

The Proof is in the Doing

You’ve probably been involved in conversations as a child that went something like this (and I emphasize something), “I can run faster than you.”  That usually drew a statement from your friend or friends (or you) that went exactly like this, “Prove it!”  This might have provoked a foot race to prove who really was the fastest.  I’ve heard some mighty big fish tales over the years that had me thinking “Prove it!”  A time or two I’ve even said to the teller of the tale, “Prove it!”  There is something in all of us (even us faith-walkers) that cries out “Prove it to me!”  I personally believe this is something God created in us.  There are times when we simply demand proof.  You know, instead of just talking the talk…it’s time to walk the walk.  Doing is a much better method of proving than talk alone.

Doing has a way of proving in itself.  Doing leaves no question of whether it is or they are genuine or not.  James from the Bible says “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  He says “Prove that you know the Word.”  Talk alone can lead to delusion.  But talk substantiated by the doing demonstrates the authenticity of the belief.  James is telling us that people are deluded when they say one thing and do another.

I was in the Word this morning and came upon something very interesting.  In Philippians 2: 14 – 15 Paul says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among which you appear as lights in the world.”  The two key words in this passage are DO and PROVE.  Here Paul encourages us to be doers without grumbling or disputing.  This proves our blamelessness and innocence in a world that is looking for something genuine.  The very thing that erases the proof is grumbling and having disputes with one another! 

The world we live in is full of people who are not followers of Jesus.  But the truth is many of those folks are screaming out to we who claim to follow Christ, “Prove it to me!  If you really believe it…do it.  Don’t just talk about it!  Prove it and I will believe!”  The Bile is incredibly clear about how we can be effective in impacting others.  It says we must do in order to prove.  The proof is in the doing.  It is not in the saying.  It certainly is not in the grumbling and disputing.  But the proof is simply in the doing!  I think I’m on to something.

Time-out!

I'm loving this time of the day.  It's the beginning of a new day.  I just finished some time in the Word and I'm sipping on a good cup of coffee.  I love the mornings.  It's quieter, the air seems to be clearer, and a fresh new day is ahead.  During this time I can reflect on the day past as well as plan and dream for the day ahead.  It's incredible how God designed life!  

I talk about this a lot but I see having quiet time as a way to slow down the perpetual rush of life.  If we're not careful we can be so caught up in the impetus of life that whenever we do slow down just a bit, we're thinking "Man, where's all the time gone!"  I believe a time, alone with God is not only important to our spiritual walk (that's the key), but it gives us an opportunity to view our lives from a proper perspective.  That perspective is filtered through the stillness and the quietness of His Word and His presence.  In athletic games there are time-outs.  Not only does the team need a quick, physical break, but a time-out can slow down the forward momentum of the opposing team, and possibly contribute to a victory.  A successful relationship requires frequent "time-outs"!  I like that!

When was your last "time-out" with God?  Just a few minutes at the beginning of each day to slow down, feed on His Word, listen for His voice, and plan is life-changing.  A time-out from the hustle and bustle of our daily routine makes all the difference.  If life seems to be rushing forward like a runaway train...take a time-out!  It really does help.  Spend time with Him.  Search through His Word.  Listen to what He is saying.  Reflect on yesterday (some), think about today, and plan for tomorrow.  But don't wait too long.  Because life will roll on by before you know it!