The Human Gift Card

What kind of Christmas gift do you get the person who has everything? Or what if you can't come up with a single clue of what a person needs for Christmas? Oh My! What a dilemma! I'm talking about the person you really love, and you really want to get them something that will impact them. Not some token Christmas gift! I know what it is. Get them a gift card!

Now some folks think this is impersonal, but listen. With a gift card you empower the person to get what they really need or want. They get to choose. You can even get them a generalized gift card that can be used wherever they accept....well, you know. And get this...no one (who is sane) wants to return a gift card! You also get to determine the amount. What could be better than a gift card! Not much (if anything) in my opinion!

Giving a gift card is actually more personal. Let me explain. A gift card is just about the same as money (because it is equal to the amount you paid for it). And your money represents the essence of who you are. Your money represents your education, training, experience, hard hours worked, etc. Face it, your money is actually more accurately who you are! So in my own thinking, that's not impersonal! A silly tie, or some wacky coin-counting machine...now that's impersonal. That's downright degrading!

At this time of the year people are running rather hectically buying Christmas gifts for one another. I see the stress and the fatigue over giving that perfect gift. Many go into debt to insure they purchase the perfect gift. Is it really worth all the stress?Just asking. Jesus did say "It is more blessed to give than to receive". But what did He mean? The giving Jesus is talking about is the giving of yourself. How do you give yourself? First you give it to Him. (Rom. 12: 1- 2) The greatest gift you could ever give anyone is to give yourself to Jesus. He doesn't need your expertise, He just wants you. When you give yourself to Jesus, He begins to work in your life - which is most beneficial to you. You empower Him to do with you all that He wants. It kind of makes you a gift card...sort of! Giving yourself to Jesus results in receiving the greatest gift one could ever receive - eternal life through Him. At this Christmas season, in the midst of all the bustle, give the ultimate gift. Give yourself to Jesus. You won't regret it!


I Love This Time of Year

I love this time of year. The temps are brisk and the air seems fresher. It seems to make even the lights brighter...especially the Christmas lights.

When I was a boy I couldn't wait until they put up the Christmas lights in our small town of Bay Springs. I mean I had it bad. Back then, the lights would not go up until just after Thanksgiving. The lights were those they used to string across the streets in a zigzag pattern. Woven into the electrical wires (to hide them) was bright, silver tinsel. It usually took about 3 nights for them to be put up. I would hurry through supper (that's what we call it), and run downtown to watch. Since we lived only about 2 blocks from downtown I was there in a flash! And finally came the time when the lights would light up! Wow. I was so excited!

We always had an outside Christmas tree as well as the one inside. Grandmother would always take us to buy a tree to put outside in the yard and decorate with just lights. I loved it! I would dig a hole to install the tree in the yard and put the lights on myself. Every single night I flipped the switch to illumine the tree in the yard. It was wonderful to me! I loved the Christmas season!

In October of 1978 I discovered the real meaning of Christmas. I met the One Christmas is all about. A baby born of a virgin over 2000 years ago came to be the Savior of the world. Now there is something I can get very excited about! Actually I stay excited about Him! Knowing Him has radically changed my life in the most positive of ways. Even though Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, I enjoy this time of year more than ever because most of the world acknowledges His coming. Even other religions at least acknowledge His arrival 2000 years back. What a fantastic time to let the light of Jesus, our Savior, shine brightly...Christmas time...when all the world focuses more on His arrival.

I'll have to admit. I still love the lights and decorations. I still love the brisk temps. But above it all I am blessed from my heart outward in knowing the One who came. Having my sins forgiven is the best gift I could ever receive! 

I Love Christmas Movies!

I love Christmas movies.  Now I'm not a follower of old St. Nick, but I do love a good fictitious story, with a little romance, and a happy ending.  I think it's inherent in all of us to enjoy a good, happy ending.  You know...boy gets girl...girl gets boy...it snows in Southern Cal the last 15 seconds of the movie.  Even though 9 out of 10 Christmas movies are predictable and the story-lines are almost identical, I still love them.  I love the sounds of jingle bells and little hometowns all decked out in Christmas decorations.  I love movies about saving Christmas, getting second chances, angels, and sharing hot chocolate in a cozy little hometown cafe.  I especially love Christian Christmas movies!  Connie and I just watched one.  The story was not too bad.  It was a story about an attack on a Christian Christmas tradition in a small Alaskan town.  Good story with a happy ending!

And then there are those Christmas movies that premiered last year, and the year before that, and the year before.  No problem. Another year has passed so why not watch them again?  They seem fresh and new all over again.  It's like a snowball.  Each year the wealth of Christmas movies gets even larger!  What will it be tonight?  Will it be "White Christmas"?  Or perhaps "It's A Wonderful Life".  Now there's a real classic.  It gets pretty rough for George Bailey for a while.  But his experience with an angel awakens him as to how blessed he really is to have a wonderful family and friends.  Now there's a good ending.  A dude who's bored and dissatisfied with his life.  He even tries to end it.  He awakens to the fact that he's about the most blessed man on the planet!  Good movie.  It's time to watch that one.  In fact, I'm sometimes tempted to watch that one in the middle of the summer.  After all... it IS a wonderful life!

Enjoy the Christmas movies.  Many of them take the pressure off the hustle and bustle of the commercial Christmas season.  And most of them have great lessons in them about what's really important in life.  Well...that's about it.  That's right, that's right.  Attaboy Clarence!  God bless us everyone and to everyone a good night!

The Spirit of Missions

The spirit of missions is populating heaven! That line has such an incredible ring to it. Think about it. And listen to Revelation 5: 9b, "For You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." (Underline added.) Who will be in heaven? People from every tribe, every tongue, every people, and every nation. (Not just folks from your community.) In other words, folks from every part of the earth, regardless of nationality, race, color, ethnic group, etc., will populate heaven. You could say, from an earthly perspective, heaven is international! Jesus did not purchase anything in heaven. Rather He came to this earth and with His own blood purchased from every place those who would populate heaven! That's the spirit of missions. (In this post I will use the "spirit" and "heart" of missions interchangeably.)

Nothing stirs me any more than seeing a group of people from different nations coming together to worship our God. We call it multicultural. We call it an international. But it's also heavenly! The spirit of missions is simply a heart's desire to see folks from other cultures worship and serve the one true God. The spirit of missions is ALL-INCLUSIVE. No race, color, people, group, tribe or tongue is left out!

Even though no group is left out, not one person with a heart of missions can effectively serve all nations! So the Holy Spirit gives people a burden for a particular group or groups.

Our family has been to the Columbia International Festival a couple of times. It is held yearly in Columbia, SC. This 2-day event is simply a gathering of people originally from different nations and ethnic groups to show-case their cultures. This is done through crafts, food, and the arts. I'll have to be very honest. One of the highest of highlights for me was the delicious food. Plus Starbucks had a booth there giving away free little cups of coffee! I would send our non-coffee drinking family members through to get a cup so I could have more! However, the most high highest of the highlights for me was the parade of nations which took place at some point during each day. This included flags from all the nations represented. Even though this was not a Christian gathering, it always brought tears to my eyes to see all those flags, and the people carrying them. What can I say? It's the spirit of missions!

Listen carefully to the next statement. The spirit of missions is not produced from a board or a committee. It is given by the Holy Spirit to those who will receive. Make no mistake about it. God's heart is for people. It doesn't matter whether they live next door or abroad. But also understand God's heart is for ALL people in EVERY place. Most of whom live beyond the borders of your country.


My prayer is that God's Spirit will connect me with people in these last days who share a burden for the nations of the world. Think of what we can accomplish together. I want to be involved in populating heaven with people from all over the world. Because according to the Scripture, that's the way it works. Tell me what you think.

If Anyone Sins...

My lead-in title comes from 1 John 2:1, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;" John says that his writing and encouragement is to help us keep from sinning. However, if we do sin, we have Jesus Christ as our advocate who is before the Father. Being a human being, my thought is...it may be just a little bit presumptuous to think I would never sin. I mean, come on, I am human!

God's goal is that we never sin. However, He became one of us in the form of Jesus Christ to bear all of our sins, and yet not commit sin Himself. When Jesus died on the cross he not only broke the power of sin over you and me, but He satisfied the penalty our sins demanded of you and me - separation from God the Father. When Jesus bore our sins He took them on Himself and bore the consequences, even though He Himself did not sin and was NOT guilty. What that did for you and me was to provide forgiveness of our sins through Him and Him alone. In and through Christ we are the righteousness of God. (See 2nd Corinthians 5: 21).

What does this mean for you and me? It means that when we come to Jesus, He forgives us of not being in right standing with God because of our sins. His forgiveness makes us become the righteousness of God (which means we are in right standing with Him). Our sins are forgiven and our guilt is gone.

So what happens when I sin from that point onward? Remember 1st John 2: 1? "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The key is to confess our sins to Jesus, the Advocate with the Father. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1st John 1: 9) This is one of the most precious and powerful promises of God I  have ever experienced! To truly believe and trust in what He said is to never fall away from Him. As a follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit is now in you. He will convict and remind you of what is right and wrong. When we sin, He points that out to us, reminding us that Jesus is our Advocate with the Father. Genuine confession of our sins as believers causes us to be forgiven and cleansed of ALL unrighteousness.

Any time you and I sin, we will be confronted with guilt. It comes along with the sin. However guilt doesn't come from God. It comes from satan. Even when sins are confessed, and we are forgiven, the devil will come and attempt to condemn. You must remind Him of the powerful scriptures in 1st John, and that you are forgiven. Many believers want to lay down when sin is committed because of the guilt incurred. But you must stand up, confess your sin, receive the forgiveness promised, resist the guilt and move forward. Why? Because God is waiting to fulfill His promise to forgive! His forgiveness will propel you forward!

And finally, God's forgiveness is not a license to sin. But we will sin. Sometimes by mistake. Sometimes willfully. But remember...if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One. And if we genuinely confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. It's His Word!

24 Days Until Christmas

Faithful

The dictionary defines the word "faithful" as: ( a.) Strict or thorough in the performance of a duty. (b.) True to one's word. (c.) Steady in allegiance or affection. (d.) Loyal, constant, reliable, trusted, or believed. Sounds to me like faithfulness is a very good virtue. What do you say?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce that the genuine source of faithfulness is God Himself. I mean He is the epitome of faithfulness. The first definition of faithfulness listed says "strict or thorough in the performance of a duty". I'd say that nails God! He's God, right? I'm convinced He is very strict and loyal as God. He's not God today and simply a legend tomorrow. He's always God and He's quite good at it! That's because He's faithful. The second definition is "true to one's word". Bingo! God again. What God says He will do...He will do. What God has said He would do...He's done! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever according to what He said. He's held true to that. The third definition says "steady in allegiance or affection". If there's one human word (among a gazillion others) that describes God it is steady. Isaiah says God loves with an everlasting love. That's pretty steady and affectionate. The Bible says God is "love". How can you get more affectionate than that? Other definitions listed are "loyal, constant, reliable, trusted, or believed". All of these accurately describe God's infinite faithfulness.

If God were not trustworthy, He could not be trusted. Yes, quite a simple statement but with profound implications. In other words, if our trust did not have as its aim the One who is trustworthy, it would not be possible. In the same way faith can only be substantiated by the One who is faithful. If God were not faithful, it would be futile to walk by faith. I am always saying that if you want to experience God's faithfulness...you must take steps of faith. Your faith gives God the opportunity to express His faithfulness. As a matter of fact, the Book says we must walk (live) by faith...not by the way things appear. This is possible because He is truly faithful. Many do not experience God's faithfulness to the level they were created to. Why? Because they're not walking by faith. Many think walking by faith requires them to muster up some invisible force from within that causes them to believe and trust in God for anything. When that doesn't happen they think they are just one of those who doesn't have great faith. God has given us all we need to trust Him. His Word. We must live and walk by it.

If you need to trust Him more (experience His faithfulness), then trust Him to do what He's already said He will do...for you. Become a student of His Word, not just for knowledge, but for faith. The book says "Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God." Live your life according to what His Word says. I promise you...you will experience His faithfulness. He is there for you!

You Win!

When I was growing up I followed one particular college football team. My dad and my sister attended this university so I grew up listening to their games with Dad on the radio. Back then there wasn't nearly as much football on TV, but when they did play on TV it was really something. Several times throughout my childhood and teenage years we went to see them play live. What a treat!  The best thing about it all was that they won their games most of the time! It usually crushed me (for a day or two) when they lost; especially when they weren't supposed to! I grew accustomed to my team winning. Year after year they went to bowl games because they had winning records. I'll have to say...it was exciting!

When we listened to them play on the radio I couldn't wait until the early part of the next week when the replay highlights would be aired on TV. It was a 30 minute program that highlighted the best and most exciting plays of the game. I loved it! Here's the unique thing about all of this. Even though I knew they won I still watched the playback program! I knew the outcome (they won), but I wanted to see how it played out - one play at a time! When they fumbled the ball or a pass was intercepted, I didn't worry a bit, because I knew the outcome!

In a much greater way, Jesus has won the victory for you and me. If you know Him, you also know   He has defeated our opponent. There was actually no contest! Jesus won...hands down. Even though we are challenged by His defeated opponent, we know Jesus has defeated Him, once and for all. Just like those playback shows, we know how it will end. But we must experience every play, one play at a time. Sometimes it doesn't seem like we are winners, but the truth is we are. Why? Because He won the victory for us! As we walk out this life with Him, there will be good days and bad days. But in it all and through it all, we focus on the end of the game (which will come very soon) - we win! More accurately stated...we have already won!

Here's a little secret. When my team lost, I didn't care at all to watch the playback show. Why? Because I hated loosing! Why watch every single play that leads to loosing? So I didn't! But thank Jesus, He won! No question about it. The victory has been won for you and me. You are NOT a loser. You are a winner in Christ Jesus! What you and I must do is walk in the truth of His victory. You may be walking through some "stuff" today, but walk as a winner - because He has won the victory for you!

Why You Should Celebrate The Birth of Jesus

With the Christmas season upon us (yea I know it's not Thanksgiving yet), what a great time for a post about the birth of Jesus Christ. The greatest reason we should all celebrate His birth is because He was born! The fact that He came is the greatest reason we have to celebrate...and it is a BIG reason! 

Jesus was not born on December 25th. He was probably born in late September or sometime in October. No one knows the exact month or day He was born. Some believe that because of this we should not celebrate His birth. But He came! What we do know is angels appeared to announce His coming. "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11). "And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:13-14) This was declared to be "...good news of great joy for all" by the angels. In addition, the angels joined together in praising God in celebration of His birth! Not sure about you, but I see this as a heavenly celebration of His earthly birth! If the angels celebrated, I think I will too!

Another reason we should celebrate the birth of Jesus is because of the way He came. Listen to how God engineered His coming. He chose the virgin Mary to be the human vessel through which He would come. "Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34-35) Because Jesus was conceived of by the Holy Spirit, and born of a woman, He was God and He was man. In other words, He was born of the Spirit and born of man.  He was the God-man! No other human has ever been born...that was also born of God! Mohammad and all his followers cannot claim this. Buddha cannot claim this. The prophets of old cannot claim this. But we can claim Him! He is called the "Only begotten" Son of God. This means "unique, the only one of His kind".

A human had to be offered for the sins of humanity. But this human had to be spotless and the blood He shed had to be pure...not tainted with sin. Again, because of His conception, He was man and He was God. The nature of Jesus' conception and His birth determined His nature...sinless. Jesus had NO sin nature. Why? Because He was born of God! This made Him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. You and I were born of Adam with a sinful nature. Because He was born (and born of God), we can become "born again" by the same Spirit! I'm on it now!

He is referred to as the "Firstborn of all creation"! He had to come first. He had to be God, and He had to be one of us...human. That's why I can celebrate His birth on December 25th, or June 25th, or October 31st! Because He came as one of us, and He came is Emmanuel, "God with us"! You know what? I think I'll celebrate His birth today...and tomorrow...and the next day...and the day after that...to infinity! How about you?

Warning! You Need To Change!

I've been pondering something for a couple of days. Something everyone has to deal with, but most of us don't want to deal with it. No it's not our income tax return or a trip to the dentist for a cleaning or even worse...a root canal. It is change. Yea, change.

As a whole change is necessary to move forward in life. Change involves our position. I know you've heard the old adage "being in the right place at the right time". That's what position is. Sometimes we need to reposition in order to move ahead or to even stand our ground. But in most cases repositioning requires change. For most change is the direct opposite of comfortable!

Change is necessary to be effective in whatever we do. If we do something a certain way without getting the desired results perhaps we need to change the way we're doing what we're doing! My pastor always said, "If we do what we've always done, we will always have what we've always had!" That's speaks volumes to me. The problem is that what we've always had is not what God wants for us today! He is fresh, like a flowing river. He is always moving and wherever He moves life flows. 

The greatest roadblock to change, thus the roadblock to progress, is focusing on the past.  Many of us had wonderful pasts. Some would love to forget some of their past. But the truth is, looking back on "what we had" makes it impossible for you and me to acquire "what we need" to move ahead. Therefore we become stiff and brittle, not being pliable and resilient which is what we need to change. Focusing on "where I used to be" and how wonderful it was is in direct opposition to "where I am going" and how much more wonderful it could be. Notice I said "focusing" not remembering. There is a big difference. Back a few years I knew some people in which whose home a church was born. Over the years as the church grew these folks (as sweet as they were) always referred back to the days when the church was in their home. It's as if God could never top anything as good as that. The sad part is that's where their focus was. It was hard for them to move beyond the days that took place back then. Everything from back then and forward was measured against those particular days and experiences.

I see this so much in people today. Many people simply don't want to change and don't really realize it. To them it seems as if it will never be as good as it was "back then". The truth is...their focus has them blinded to reality. Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 3: 13a - 14, "...forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Please remember this..the goal is always ahead of you. It is never behind! God has so much in store for you, your family, and your church. But we must be willing to change in order move ahead to pursue it. Change may not be comfortable but it is vital!

Prepare For Change

It's a beautiful morning in Mississippi. It's brisk, a tad overcast, and the leaves are proclaiming all the Fall colors.  I love this time of year. To some folks Fall signifies the end or the death of Summer. To me it signifies a season of Change. Fall and Spring are seasons of change. I like that.

Now don't misunderstand, I love the Summer and I even like the Winter.  But there is something about an atmosphere of change that excites me.  In this type of atmosphere it seems anything can happen!

In my walk with Jesus, I prefer to be in seasons of change.  I love it when God tells His people, "Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Behold, I will do something new..." (Isaiah 43:18-19). We do go through seasons in which nothing seems to change. But it's during those times we must be very careful not to settle into a rut.  We must constantly seek God's face for the freshness of His Spirit in our walk with Him. The writer of Hebrews says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Heb.13:8) Understand that Jesus never changes.  He doesn't need to change...we do! His principles as well as His character are solid and applicable throughout time. In order to be like Him, we must change. So God brings us through seasons of change as His Spirit and His Word work in us.

Because of change, our walk with Jesus should never be boring. It is always an adventure! Change is a quality in our walk that dispels the mediocre. Change indicates that God is up to something...and when He is up to something...its just down-right exciting!

Let me encourage you today. Expect change. Prepare for change. God wants to do exceeding abundantly beyond all you can ask, or even think, according to His power that is available to work in you! (See Ephesians 3:20.)

You ARE Worthy

You are worthy!  I say this to Jesus countless times throughout the day.  But in this post I'm not talking to God...I'm talking to you!  Let me say it again.  You are worthy.  Worthy of what?  Worthy of Him.  Now if you are like me often you don't feel worthy to be in relationship with the Creator of all things.  But you are worthy.  Often when we focus on our own abilities to please God, we can easily see where we fall way short. But thanks to God, my standing with Him is not contingent on my abilities!  My standing with Him is not dependent on my past.  As a matter of fact, nothing of me or mine qualifies me to be accepted by Him! Nothing! Then how can I be worthy of Him?  By His choice.  By His decision. Because of His great love for you and me.

With that said, let me also say we must come to the point in which we accept His grace. Many folks have accepted Him, but have yet fully accepted the fact that it is all done by Him, and not by our own merit. Some cannot even properly yield to Him because they still don't feel worthy of Him.  But you are worthy of Him...thanks to Him and Him alone!  We must come to the point in our walk at which we stop telling Him that we are unworthy of Him and don't deserve Him. You may think or feel you're not worthy.  But He thinks differently.  He made it possible. He became one of us. He walked the earth as you and I do.  He was tempted in every area that you and I are...yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). He gave Himself for you and me to deliver us out of this present evil age (Galatians 1:4).  If we are delivered from this present evil age, then we have been accepted into His fold.  If you and I are accepted by Him...we are worthy of Him.  There is a difference between arrogance and confidence.  Arrogance gives man/self all the credit (or at least a good chunk of it.)  But confidence gives God all the credit.  Confidence is the assurance that God did all the work and all we have to do is believe it, receive it, and act like it!

I was not worthy.  But now I am.  I was once lost, but now I have received the grace and mercy He extended to whosoever will receive Him!  This gives me my position - in Him. You ARE worthy too.  And the sooner you believe that, the sooner you will impact the lives of others who have yet to meet Him. You are an awesome creature, created in Christ by the Creator Himself.  If HE has decided you are worthy of salvaging, then it is settled.  You are worthy!

The Thing I've Made It

As I was worshiping this morning on came the song "The Heart of Worship" by Matt Redman.  Listen to these particular lyrics:  "I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about You.  It's all about You, Jesus.  I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it, when it's all about you.  It's all about you, Jesus."  One line struck me!  "I'm sorry Lord for the THING I've made it."  Wow!  Have I made my worship a THING?  Have you?  What kind of a thing are we capable of making our worship into?  The last question could be answered in many ways, but all that needs to be said is that true worship is not a thing, it is an intimate relationship with the One who created the entire universe.  When our worship becomes a thing, it becomes an idol.

When does our worship become a "thing"?  Listen again to the lyrics: "I'm sorry Lord for the THING I've made it.  When it's ALL about You!"  Our worship becomes a thing when it is no longer ALL about Jesus.  Not just about Him, but ALL about Him and none other. The heart of worship is our object of worship - Jesus.  When worship is all about Jesus, it is true worship. If our worship is about appeasing our conscience it becomes a thing.  If our worship is about how polished our music can be, it has become a thing.  If our worship is about pleasing man, it has become a thing.  But if our worship is ALL about Jesus, we have the heart of worship - Jesus.  Jesus becomes the object of our worship as our relationship with Him deepens.


The heart of our worship is to glorify the object of our worship...nothing and no one else.  We must be very careful that we don't move away from the "heart" of worship. This life is full of attractions and distractions that will draw us away from the heart of worship.  Redman (as he penned the lyrics to this song) apparently realized by the Spirit that He had drifted away from his worship being ALL about Jesus.  This realization compelled Him to move back to the heart of worship...when and where it is ALL about Jesus - no one or no "thing" else.


Coming back to the heart of worship (when it's all about Jesus) is not complicated.  It must start with a keen realization that our worship is ALL about Him, and a deep desire to make it all about Him.

Don't Get Mad At Me! Just Listen!

Occasionally I make a post that gets a person or two a little stirred up.  It is never my intention to make someone mad or to antagonize a few folk with my blog.  However, it is always my intention to share the truth of God's Word as I feel I am led by God's Spirit.  I do understand that not everyone sees things exactly the way I do - thank God!  But my desire is that through this vessel with limited capabilities, and depending on the only One who extends my capabilities with His, everyone can at least see the point and understand my heart.

Here are a few subjects I would love to write on, but don't because they really get people rubbed the wrong way, and who could ever get the true point while they are all worked up at me!  Here we go:  Halloween, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and The Easter Bunny.  (I could name 40 or 50 more!)  Now...I am not afraid to write about these subjects, but it is usually futile, because people are very, very defensive about these subjects.  I feel it is much more effective to address the parents of young children more directly about how they raise their children in general.  So...here goes!

Paul writes these words, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4) The last part of this verse is what I want to key on:  "Bring them (your children) up (raise them) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  Here is a key question I want to pose to Christian parents of young children:  How much of the kingdom of God do you invest DAILY in your children?  The only way to bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Christian parents, is to daily discipline and instruct your child or children in the things of the Lord.  How often do you teach them from the Bible?  It will not be enough to let the children's church or Sunday school teach your children once or twice a week.  Between these outings, how much of the world is being programmed into them by the TV, internet, videos, cell phones and movies? How about all the "extra-curricular" activities of school?  I'm talking about those things that keep you parents running so furiously you don't even have time discuss the day around the evening dinner table.  I'm not fussing, I am truly concerned. Christian parents, how can your child or children change the world for Jesus, if they are raised being filled with more of the world than of Jesus? To me it just doesn't seem complicated.

Another question:  How much time do you spend DAILY with your children in prayer?  Are they learning to pray and confess the Word of God over and in every situation?  If you are too busy to invest God's kingdom daily in your children, don't expect them to be in love with Jesus.  If they spend more time watching/hearing from a worldly character (good or bad) how can they fall in love with Jesus?  The truth is, if you are investing God into your children, then you truly are walking with Him.  But if your are not, it is evident that your own walk needs some tweaking, and it will directly effect your children!

Listen to me carefully.  Nothing and no one can take the place of daily discipline and instruction in the things of Jesus Christ!  Somewhere along the way many Christian parents have taken up the false idea that kids will be OK with no maintenance until they are grown.  Then...they can learn about God...because they are older and understand more easily.  Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."  (Mark 10:15)  If Jesus uses a little child as an example even for adults, it seems to me that little children are really the most fertile ground of any!

Christian parents, seek God about this.  Your children are you most important responsibility.  They are ripe for the harvest.  Talk to them about Jesus if you haven't.  Lead them to Him.  And then make them your daily ministry to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.   And finally let me say that there are truck loads of tools and helps available today from Christian bookstores to ween your child off of the world and at the same time invest the kingdom of God into them daily. If you need help, seek out someone who is successful in raising their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. I am praying and looking for a new generation of young people who live counter-culturally because they have been raised in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!

Are You Maxing Your Worship?

I was recently pondering the Christ-follower's ability to worship God.  You know, kind of like the brain. Huh? Well what I mean is we use about 10% of our brain. This is a simple (but profound) illustration of the magnificence of God. The creation and function of the human brain is mind-boggling. (No play on words intended.) But it does demonstrate the infinite capabilities of our Creator.

In the same way, you and I were created to function as whole worshipers of God; to bring glory to our Creator. The capabilities are limitless because God created us. But the truth is, like our brain, we probably bump (at the highest) around 10% usage of our worship capability! Why is that? There would be several reasons, but the main reason is we are not yielded to the Holy Spirit - not only for physical worship - but in our existence as His servants.

According to the Scripture, we are supposed to be radical, bold worshipers of our God. Worship should be our life-style, not just something we do periodically. Worship is not a segment of our life - it IS our life. Worship is what we are created to do. When the early believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they were compelled out into the streets. The first thing they did after being filled with the Spirit was worship God and proclaim His Word with boldness. The more they worshipped, the more they proclaimed! The more they proclaimed, the more people were drawn to Jesus.

Many of us are seeking success in our methods of worship. We should constantly be pliable and relevant to our culture when it comes to connecting with people. But...the greatest Connector of all times - the Holy Spirit - brings an energy into our lives and our worship that we cannot manufacture. He brings it as HE worships and glorifies Jesus in and through us. Jesus said He would return to the Father, and would send forth the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. He would be the One who takes from Jesus, discloses it to you and me, and ultimately glorifies the Father. Much of our worship is rote, dry, and uninteresting because we are rote, dry, and uninteresting. My suggestion is to seek Him for the fresh fire of His Spirit. He is here on the planet to bring amazing, overwhelming glory to Jesus. He will do it through you and any believer who is hungry for Him. Simply yield to Him. He stands ready to return the fire to you and to your worship. The result is, instead of worshiping at 10% capacity, your ability to worship will be unlimited and contagious, bringing due recognition (glory) to Jesus!! It will spread to others as Jesus intends it to. 

Where is Your Heart?

I've always been intrigued by something Jesus said one day. He said "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". I have often pondered that statement. (Actually I've pondered quite a few of His statements!) But this one has really gotten my attention lately. "Where your treasure is - there your heart will be also". What is my treasure? The treasure Jesus was talking about is something like a deposit. A deposit of something extremely valuable to you.

After thinking about this for some time, I believe I can name 3 general deposits we all make every day of our lives: Time, energy, and money. Here's the question: Where are you and I depositing our time, energy, and money? Wherever that is - that is our treasure and there you'll find our hearts.

I really enjoy fishing. I've done a lot of fishing in my life but I haven't been fishing in several years! It's not that I've quit fishing, I have simply found a better depository for my time, energy, and money! Now if any of you want to offer to take me to Steinhatchee to fish the flats for specs I will be MOST OPEN to the invitation! Some people like golf, some movies, some water sports, others music, some jobs, TV, video games, etc. But let me get back to what Jesus said. He said "Where your treasure (deposit of time, energy, and $) is, there your heart will be also.

In order to be effective in serving Jesus He has to have possession of our hearts. I remember growing up hearing the statement "His heart just wasn't in it." It's when a person undertakes a task but their heart just isn't in it. You can do it, but you just don't give it your all. I've heard coaches talk about athletes that are good but have no heart. Many Christ followers are like this. We must be careful that we don't profess to serve Him, but our hearts are far away from Him. Our treasure is deposited in the things of this world.

In Matthew 6: 19 - 21 Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Bottom line: Let's be careful that our treasure (along with our heart) is not stored up in the things that are passing away. What we deposit in heaven today will last forever!

The Move of God

(A re-post from Harvest Celebration Ministries a couple of weeks ago.)

One of the passions of my heart over the years has been to see the church stirred up from the inside out.  I still have that passion.  I want to see the lives of God's people literally turned upside down by God Himself.  It has been not only my passion, but my constant prayer. Over a year ago God connected Connie and me to an incredible group of folks who share that same passion...and as a result have been praying for the same. To be able to gather weekly with this group who represents somewhere between 65% and 75% of this church has been most refreshing.  Just this past Tuesday night, during this prayer meeting God began to impress some things upon my heart.  I simply want to share them.

What we are seeing is a move of God.  This move we are experiencing is not exclusive to one local church.  This move is happening world-wide and is a result of deep hunger for the reality of God.  This hunger is born out of and propagated by prayer.  Even though this move is world-wide, it's not just anywhere.  It is taking place where there is a deep hunger for God.  This is not a work of God.  It is a move of God. There is a difference.  The work of God involves God and man.  The move of God is exclusively done by God's Spirit.  The work of God always follows the move of God.

In too many places the work of God is attempted before the move of God takes place.  In too many places men are attempting to force the work of God where there has been no move of God.  And still in too many places men are forcing the work of God where God moved 20, 30 even 50 years ago.  It just doesn't work.  This produces religion.

What we are seeing is the move of God upsetting the normality of human lives.  Only God's Spirit can do this.  Only the move of God can bring folks to the reality of the sin in their lives, and cause them to openly repent.  The move of God is like a Tsunami.  A tsunami is a terrible thing.  A Holy Spirit Tsunami is a terrible thing too.  It's a terrible thing to the average, complacent Christian as it obliterates sin and religion in their life.  Like a tsunami this move of God tears down, breaks up, destroys, and ravages the normality of life.  But the good news is that this move of God prepares the way for the work of God to follow!

I was reminded of the Apostle Paul (before he was the Apostle Paul). The Holy Spirit knocked him off of his horse and blinded Him!  Talk about a tsunami!  It was after the move of God on Paul that the work of God began.  In my opinion Paul is the greatest apostle who ever lived!

In order for God to do on-going work in each of us He has to move on and in us.  In order for God to work in our churches, there needs to be overwhelming, life-upsetting encounter(s) with Him.  In order for us to do the work of God, we need the move of God.  This is what He is doing these days.  Do you hunger for the reality of the God we claim to serve?  Do you feel there is more to the Christian life you are experiencing?  Then join with those who share the same hunger and don't try to hang on.  Because everything you can hang on to will be washed away!

Addicted

It's a beautiful, crisp, Fall Monday morning. I'm up and seeking God's presence.  As I've said many times before, I love to seek Him on the vehicle of anointed praise and worship.  I thank God for the gift of praise and worship as it lifts me higher into His presence.  Who can deny His presence?  I guess perhaps those who have never experienced it!  But not me!  How can I deny a force so real and so very instantly life-changing!

Anyway, I enjoy Pandora as I have created my own personal praise and worship station.  As I was worshiping this morning the old song "Breathe" came on.  This was an older version from way back.  I am amazed at the anointing (the touch of God) this song has.  And it never seems to lose it or even wane.  One word came into my mind during this song..."addicted".  This song drew something out from deep down in my heart...I am addicted!

The songs says "I am desperate for You."  "I am lost without You."  How does that make me  addicted?  Well...listen to the rest of the words.  "This is the air I breathe.  Your Holy presence, living in me."  "This is my daily bread.  Your very Word, spoken to me."  His presence is my air.  His Word is my food/sustenance.  Without them I am lost, and so for HIM I am desperate.

When Adam was brought to life, God had just breathed the very breath of life into Him.  When I was spiritually brought to life (born again), God breathed into me His breath of life, the Holy Spirit.  And now the only way I can live spiritually (and eternally with Him) is by His Spirit who is the breath and presence of God! Without Him I am eternally dead and lost.  Therefore I am desperate for Him...addicted.  The Word says that we must live and grow on "every Word that comes out of God's mouth."  Again, desperate.  Again, addicted!

The words of the song ring so true.  I am desperate for you Jesus.  And I am certainly lost without you.  I was wondering.  What about you?

I Notice Stuff

I happen to be one of those people who notices things.  I really can't help it.  I just notice stuff.  The weird thing is I'm not really a detail person!  Once (a long time ago) I was watching a re-run of a 30 minute show supposedly set in Cocoa Cocoa Beach, FL.  In this episode the Major runs out into his front yard. Then I notice them there in the background...mountains!  What's wrong with mountains?  They don't exist in Florida.  I noticed once (and every time since then) that the Walton's don't really live in Virginia.  They live in California! Well...that's where they were filmed.  Sorry.  I just notice stuff.  But this one takes the cake.  When I was a kid way back in the 20th century, some friends and I were at the movies one Saturday afternoon.  It was a really great Western.  I was enjoying myself and then I noticed it.  I cracked up laughing. What was it?  It was the vapor trail of a jet airplane in the sky!  The cowboy just rode on as if it didn't exist!

I notice stuff about people too.  I notice the way people laugh.  I notice the way people talk.  I might just ask you where you are from if you have a different accent.  I notice the way people sneeze.  Yea, pretty weird but I do.  What amazes me is how some people can control a sneeze.  You know, those tiny little whimpers you barely hear as they symbolically cover their nose with just one finger.  Good grief, if I tried that I might blow my ear drums out!  I'm just saying.  I notice stuff.

I also notice how people respond to life itself.  Some can handle it well while others cannot.  Some seem to be up and steady, while others are up and down, back and forth.  I've noticed how some seem to maintain a growing, healthy relationship with Jesus, while others are sort of in and out in that relationship.  I just notice.  The truth is, we all struggle at times...even in our relationship with Jesus.  But here is the great news.  Jesus never moves away from us or leaves us.  He is always steady and ready.  After all, He is the "Rock" of ages.  All other ground is "sinking sand".  You may be up today or you may be down today.  You may be in today or you may be out.  But He is always there for you.  The Book says He will never leave nor forsake you. (See Hebrews 13:5)  You and I can call on Him at any time.  He is there.  One thing I've noticed about Jesus, and it changed my life.  He loves you and me with an everlasting love.  This love will never change.  He stands ready right at this moment to forgive, heal, strengthen, and love you too!  Just ask Him.  How could I not notice this!

Better Than Orange Juice

It's a Monday morning as I make this post.  It's early (as usual), and my head is between my ear buds...pumping very anointed Praise and Worship music into my existence.  I cannot accurately express in words what I feel...but I'll give it a try.

Besides just plain ole good, something really special happens when I require myself to spend quality time in God's presence.  I seem to experience a full dose of the reality of what I already know.  For instance, I know that God is good.  And I know many verses that substantiate God's goodness from the Book.  But when the Holy Spirit energizes that fact abruptly, I began to experience for myself the reality of what my head already knows!  It's life-changing!  I know that God can do anything. But when I am in His presence I begin to experience what I already knew...God CAN do anything.  It's more than good words...it comes alive!  One more example.  I know that God inhabits praise.  (See Psalm 22:3).  But when I enter into His gates with a heart of thanks, and come into His courts with praise...I experience the reality of God inhabiting praise!

I don't know everything.  And God can teach and show us many things while in His presence.  However, what I do know, and what I have learned becomes a tangible reality when I am in His presence.  No, not all at once, but whatever He desires to bring to reality...He does.  It moves from being great information stored in the memory banks of our minds, to a tangible reality in our spirits. Yep, God IS good!  Because such a big, mighty, holy God would consider you and me worthy to even come into His presence.  And on top of that, He would bring to reality the promises He has already presented to us in His written Word.

And let me say that requiring yourself quality time in His presence is even better than that orange juice commercial.  You know, the one where everyone at the breakfast table is telling a certain person that at such and such a time during the day, bad things would happen to him.  To every bad thing he says "Great.  Fantastic.  I've had my orange juice!"  You can face the day and tackle anything because you've been in God's presence.  And you don't just know all the great things about Him...this very day you have experienced them!

Time That Transforms

Goodness gracious!  I had a great time with Jesus this morning.  I simply love the early morning!  It's that time of day when I get alone with the God who created our universe. Yea, He's a big God, but He spent one-on-one time with me this morning.  Just God and me!  You may have spent time with him simultaneously, but still...He was with me!! That's how big He is. But what I really, really love about Jesus is that he is also very intimate.  He waits longingly for us to come to Him, just to be with Him.  Just He and you (or me)!

the Word says His mercies are new each morning.  Well, if His mercies are new each morning so is His presence.  You can't live today solely on what you received yesterday (or last week).  The fact that His mercies are new each day strongly confirm that His presence is also fresh and new each day.  Without His infinite mercy we would not experience one lick of His presence!

It is incredible to experience the freshness of His Spirit along with the freshness of a brand new day.  There is no doubt it forms one's outlook of the entire day.  Time in God's presence transforms a feelings riddled, negative outlook of the day into a "God is in control" and "I'm expecting God to do great exploits through me!" kind of a day.  Let me encourage you to make an appointment with God each day.  Give up a little sleep if you have to.  God is much greater than the amount of sleep you lose.  And He is definitely greater than the weakness you may feel as a result of losing an hour of sleep. According to Paul, God is strongest through us when we are weaker!  so make that appointment...and keep it!  You will be blessed!

Are You Forsaking Church?

It's a great Sunday morning, I'm up early anticipating a great time in the Lord's presence at Pursuit Church.  But then I'm always up early, anticipating a great day filled with God's presence! However today (Sunday) is extremely special because I get to share it with some great people who absolutely love Jesus like I do!

There is something very encouraging about being with God's people...especially when you're one of them.  Listen to what the book says, "...and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10: 24-25)  This writer of Hebrews is saying we must consider how to stimulate each other to love and good works by gathering together.  When we don't gather, we're not stimulated!  He says we need more encouragement today than yesterday.  Why?  Because the day is approaching.  What day? The day Jesus comes, or the day we go to Him.  Either way...it is "the day" we meet Him.  The closer we get to "that day", the closer we need to be to Jesus. The word "stimulate" from the original language actually has the meaning of "provoking" one another.  This is a hard-core form of encouragement.  It is the kind of encouragement one receives in a gathering when God's Spirit shows up!  This writer is saying you miss out on this type of encouragement if you miss the gathering.

Obviously some of the folks written about here were missing the gatherings, and they were missing the encouragement as well.  They were not being stimulated/provoked to love and good works for Jesus.  Instead they were becoming hardened and some were even falling away.  Because of the positive effect gathering has on God's people, the writer here considers "not" gathering a type of forsaking the gathering.

The bottom line here is that two crucial characteristics of the body of Christ are missing as a result of not gathering together:  Love and good deeds. These two characteristics are designed to carry beyond the gatherings and reach into the week ahead - out there in the world.  When one habitually misses the gathering of the church they lack the encouragement necessary for love and good deeds outside the gathering.

So let me say to you...go to church.  If you don't have a church...find a church. Find a church that is out there on the edge.  Don't go to a church that has been steeped in tradition and religion for the past 50 to 300 years!  Find a church where the people are not bonkers...but they ARE bonkers for Jesus. Hang with folks who simply won't stop talking about Jesus.  Find a gathering of folks who are praising Him with all their body, soul, mind, and strength! Gather with folks who are worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.  This is the way Jesus said we ALL should worship our God!!

God of 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 37 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 and am now planning India Reach 2012.  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).  And in 2007 I was able to visit Honduras two times.  And I just returned from my 3rd visit to Honduras.  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.

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.

Acceptable Worship

I teach a series entitled "Passion with a Purpose". In the second session I cover the subject of "Acceptable Worship". Let me say something we must all understand right at the beginning: The way we worship and approach God MATTERS to Him. God establishes the protocol for approaching Him and has laid it out in His Word.

From what I have experienced in worship there are two types of worship: Acceptable worship and token worship. What is token worship? Understanding that a token is a substitute for the genuine, token worship is something offered to God to please self alone. How does that happen? Some people do church to do their time. Who does that please? Themselves. Somewhere within there is a self-gratification that says "I have met the minimum requirement". But that is token worship. The same is true in group praise and worship in the church. Some endure the praise and worship (it's very obvious on their faces) thinking they are offering something to God. The truth is they are doing their time. They think this actually satisfies God too! The truth is God doesn't receive or accept token worship! Token worship (which pleases man) is pure religion!But then there is acceptable worship. This worship is accepted by God. Cain and Able are a very good example. (See Gen. 4)  At harvest time Cain brings an offering to God from his crops. God doesn't accept Cain's offering. Cain is very upset! God says "Cain I'll accept you're offering if you respond to Me in the correct way!" Abel shows us the correct way. The Word says Abel brought several "choice" lambs from the "best" of his flock. The difference? Cain brought God a token offering. Abel brought an acceptable one! Cain brought God a little somethinsomethin'. Abel brought God the very best he had.  Is your worship token or acceptable?  Just asking.

The real lesson in this story is that when God accepts your offering, He accepts you! When He does not accept your offering (Cain) He doesn't accept you! Pay close attention to this scripture. "Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts." If the worship we present to God (in group or individual worship) is acceptable to God - we get in! When we get in to His incredible Holy Place we are never the same!  He eagerly waits for His folks to "enter in" to His presence...with acceptable worship.  Remember, the way we approach God and what we offer to Him does really matter.

How Will You Face The Day?

Wow! Another morning...another day filled with opportunities. Some people wake up each morning and say "Good morning Lord!" But others wake up and say "Good lord, It's morning!" Which one are you? How do you look at a brand new day? Today is filled with opportunities, many of which won't pass your way again. Will you look at today as another God-given adventure, or perhaps more time to pass until the weekend?

If you are like me (and I know you are because you are human), you tend to magnify the negative things until you don't see any positive. But the truth is, the positive things in your life are much more numerous than the negative. Sometimes we allow one truly negative occurrence to ruin our day or our week, or for some, their entire outlook on life.

So how will you look at today? That will determine how you live today. Will you head out to work dreading the grind of the job, focusing on all the negative aspects (and there are some)? Or will you focus on the positive things of your life? When is the last time you thanked God for your job? I'm just saying. When is the last time you thanked God for your coworkers? When is the last time you thanked God for your family, health, and home? When is the last time you thanked God for your church family?

Here's a suggestion for you. Deliberately have a grateful heart today and see if your day is any different. Just try it. When your are tempted to focus on negative stuff, arrest those thoughts and be grateful for the good things. Sometimes life can be hard and people can be harsh and cruel. However, there are so many wonderful gifts directly from God that I thank Him for...all the time. Here are just a few: My salvation, His Spirit, my bride, children, grandchildren, friends, and church family. Man! Yea, I said it! Those things are enough to dwell on! Try it. I challenge you to take on today as a day filled with incredible opportunities! You won't regret it.