Preaching To The Choir?

You've probably heard the phrase "Preaching to the choir". If you've been around Christianity long enough you know what it means. In essence it means you are preaching to folks who really don't need to hear what you're preaching. Why? Because they've heard it before. As a matter of fact, they've heard it again and again! So when you hear someone say "That preacher was preaching to the choir" it means he/she is "beating a dead horse". Whoa! There I go with another common phrase. I think you get the meaning though.

But at this moment I feel I really, really need to "preach to the choir". Why? Because we have heard what I am about to share (over and over), but I don't think we're getting the whole thing. The part we may not be getting would revolutionize your and my walk with Jesus...if we just get it. So listen up choir!

The Bible teaches that through Jesus we are connected to His death. "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3) There are two aspects of Jesus' death on the cross. (1) Jesus died a natural death in our place...for us. (2) Jesus died a spiritual death in our place...for us. A deeper understanding of this 2nd aspect of the cross would revolutionize our walk with Jesus. But I must talk a bit about the first one...first.

Why did Jesus die a physical death for you and me? Because we live a physical life, and one day we will die a physical death. We will die a physical/natural death because of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Since then man has been disconnected from that form of life which once caused him to live forever; eternal life. Eternal life is realized only through Jesus Christ. In order to provide for us eternal life, Jesus came in a physical, human body. He died a physical death, and 3 days later was raised from the dead in that same body. When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the same resurrection power that raised Jesus dwells within us. The same power which brought Jesus up from the grave will do the same for us as well in the Resurrection. 

Jesus also died a spiritual death or second death; the 2nd aspect of the cross I want to talk about. Revelation 2:11 says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death." This "second" death is reserved for the devil and his forces, and those who have have not received Jesus as Lord when they leave this physical life. This second death is eternal disconnection from God and everything to do with Him. 

How did Jesus die spiritually for you and me? The event of the cross completely separated Him from God. I believe this separation began when He was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and lasted until His resurrection. God allowed the epitome of innocence to be wrongly accused, convicted, and sentenced to death in our place. When Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46) God did not forsake Jesus. But God could not look upon the sin that Jesus became. "He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor. 5:21)

God is holy. Holy as it refers to God means totally separated from sin. Jesus is just as holy and had to come in the form of human flesh, and take upon Himself the sins of the world in order to descend into hell to conquer it and the grave. "Holy" is not qualified to enter the seat of hell (and conquer it) unless it takes upon itself ALL the world's sin, and Jesus did that! He didn't have to do it, but because of His love for you and me...He did! I am eternally grateful to Him!

Some of us will be born twice and die only once. That is, some will be born into this life as a human and will be born again by God's Spirit. It is our choice. They will eventually die a physical death, but never have to face the second death...eternal separation from God. We should be eternally grateful to Jesus for the sacrifice of Himself. Others will be born only once and reject Jesus. When they die, they die without Jesus (First death). In the judgment they will be condemned to eternity without Jesus (Second death). Once again the Bible says this eternal, second death will be spent in the lake of fire that was actually prepared for the devil and his forces.

Just as Jesus died a physical death which provides for a resurrected body (changed in the blink of and eye), He died a spiritual death which provides complete exemption from the second death. I have barely begun to understand this. But I have been overwhelmed at the greatness of our God, who is driven by His love for you and me. I feel like Paul when he got one of his clues which changed the world, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:33)

So there you are choir. Take it to heart and sing really loud about it!

Are You A Happy Customer?

Years ago I worked for McDonald's.  You know, the place with the red-headed clown that sits out front (and never moves).  I remember one of the first things I noticed in the little break room was a sign that read "The Customer Is Always Right!"  I really thought about that one since I was new to the company and really didn't know what kind of an influence that slogan would have on me.  Could a customer (having a bad hair day) dump their chocolate shake on me and be in right in doing it?  Could a customer "name their own price" for a Big Mac and I would have to agree?  It didn't take me long to understand what that little slogan really meant.  This statement simply implied (loudly and clearly) that customer service was the main issue at McDonald's.  "The Customer Is Always Right" also implies that customers are what McDonald's is all about.  Without customers there would be no business.  Without business there would be no McDonald's!  I don't know if this statement still applies at McDonald's or not.  It's been awhile since I worked there.  But it's a great one.

Another one of my favorite places to go is Starbuck's.  If anyone knows me...you know that.  I think they do have great coffee and great specialty drinks.  I am more of a plain ole coffee man so I don't drop too much money on the other stuff.  I love my coffee, and I like it to be good.  But there is another reason I love to visit Starbuck's.  They seem to really appreciate my coming in!  One day Connie and I visited the local Starbuck's.  The barista knew I am a "bold" coffee drinker and asked my opinion on a gourmet coffee they had been serving for the week.  I appreciate that!  Many times as soon as I walk in the door they're already preparing me a bold coffee.  It's on the counter when I get there!  What is that?  It is great customer service.  It is going the extra mile to please the customer.  I like that!  

Yet another of my favorite places is Chick-fil-A.  In our last experience there we were greeted at the door with a hearty "Welcome to Chck-fil-A!"  When we finished our meal someone came to our table and took our trays for us.  I gave them a big "Thanks", and their response was "It's my pleasure."  I've noticed anytime you say thanks in Chick-fil-A you get a big "It's my pleasure!"
  
The truth is...when I am the customer I like it to be about me.  Why?  Besides the fact I just like it, I am also paying for the product and the service.  For someone to not even acknowledge my presence or at least say thanks irritates me!  Chances are I won't be back!  Good customer appreciation brings me back!  I think you'll agree.

Many, many businesses could be so much more successful if they would just understand the significance of good customer service.  Even churches would be more effective in reaching people if they understood good customer service.  A warm, friendly greeting makes the difference.  I have learned from years of experience that most first-time guests will return for one simple reason...they feel welcome.  Paul says in Romans 12:10 to "...give preference to one another in honor."  I believe this is the foundation of great customer service.  It is absolutely amazing what I can learn from burgers, coffee, and chicken!

879410: Jumpstart Your Customer Service Jumpstart Your Customer Service
By Shawn Doyle & Lauren Anderson

It's NEVER Too Late!


As I age in years I sometimes find myself wondering about my younger years. I think about my years as a teenager in which I did not serve God in the least. It wasn't until I was almost 25 years old that I gave Jesus Christ my everything. Sometimes I think about how my teenage years would have been spent as a Spirit-filled believer in Jesus. It never fails that the Holy Spirit explicitly and emphatically reminds me His timing in accepting Jesus was completely orchestrated by Him. There could be no better timing.


The years you and I have spent as a non-Christian are not wasted years. God has a way of using our past to make us what we are today...as He prepares us for tomorrow. It's not that our past is all good, but God is our great Redeemer. He not only redeems our souls...but He redeems our lives! God makes something out of nothing; success from failure; and causes the impossible to become possible. There is nothing He cannot do. So don't let your past determine how you serve Him today. Don't let your past dictate your future in serving Him either!

Yes, there are times when I think about my life as a youth. There are some things I would do differently. But I also remember that I see things differently now than I saw them way back then. As I look back I gaze through the heart of one born again by, and baptized in the Holy Spirit of God. The way I see things now, won't change the decisions I made back then. It does however show me the purity of my heart now as compared to back then. It also reveals to me something very, very crucial to my future. It is never too late to be used by God!

God never gives up on those He sacrificed His only son for. You may not be a youth any more. There may be things you should have done, that you didn't. There may be things you would now do differently...looking back. You may think it's too late for God to use you like He really could have. But listen to me carefully. That is not the truth. It is NEVER too late to be used by God!  As long as you have breath and as long as your heart is beating...God can and will do great exploits in and through you. You just have to believe it. Listen to one of the most powerful verses in the Bible, "The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." (Rom. 11:29) Paul says this when he is speaking of the nation of Israel, and how they sought to establish their own righteousness through the Law of Moses. On the other hand the Gentiles found the righteousness of God (not their own) simply by believing through faith. But Paul wanted to establish the fact that when God is finished with the influx of the Gentiles, His plan for the salvation of the Jewish people will be fulfilled. Israel was raised up by God as God's people. The calling on this nation will be fulfilled. Why? Because God's gifts and His calling cannot be reversed, voided, or revoked!

With that said, If you have answered the call out of darkness into the light of the kingdom of God, God will use you. Maybe you've floundered. Perhaps you've made some wrong decisions. But one thing is certain. The one who avails himself to God is the one God will use to do great exploits. I want to encourage you, no matter what your age, expect God to use you. He used men like Joshua and Caleb mightily. Samson blew it over and over. But when Samson got the clue, God used Him powerfully as one of the chosen judges to deliver the people of God. Paul was an elderly man when He wrote his epistles as were most of the original apostles. It is never too late...no matter what your age and no matter what you've done. Your part is to simply believe and expect to be used by God to do things way far out of the ordinary. That's right you have to believe that. And you also must prepare yourself by your total surrender to Him, and availing yourself ONLY to God. As a matter of fact, God is searching for those who will say "I am all yours. My life is Yours. All that I have is Yours. Here I am! Take me...ALL of me."


"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 your day 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!


It's Still Finger-lickin' Good!

I do a series of teachings to encourage followers of Christ on the subject of failure. "What? Did he use the words 'encourage' and 'failure' in the same sentence?" Yes I did. "How in the world can failure encourage someone? I mean I failed, right?" The truth is all of us have failed, and all of us have failed quite a bit. What does it mean to fail? Generally speaking to fail means "to fall short of success or achievement in something expected, attempted, desired, or approved." (dictionary.com).

If you're like me and everyone else on this planet, you've attempted things and fallen short of success. Falling short of success doesn't make you a failure though. Falling short of achieving something you attempt does not make you a failure. Everyone fails at something at some time or another. 
Failing does not make you a failure. Failing, which is a part of life, is one of life's greatest teachers!

Listen to me carefully. God doesn't create failures! God creates winners! But all winners have failed. My entire life was a failure before I met Jesus. It was failure that woke me up and pointed me to Jesus. He didn't reject me as a failure when I cried out to Him. No...he ran to me, picked me up, and set me on the path of success, chock full of second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) chances; the path of infinite mercy and grace. And even as an avid follower of Jesus, I still fail. I have failed many times. But since I am convinced Jesus won't throw me away (because the Book says it), I refuse to quit!

Most people would agree that Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest Presidents of the United States. Did you know that between the years of 1832 and 1860 Abraham Lincoln had 11 major failures in his life? I'm not talking about missing the trash can with a wad of paper. These were big time failures. Most of these failures involved his political career. In addition, during that period of time he had a nervous breakdown and had to deal with the death of his sweetheart. I truly believe Abraham Lincoln learned from his failures. Again, he is without a doubt considered one of the most (if not the most) successful of U.S. Presidents. I am glad he didn't quit!

I'm sure you've heard of Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). When Colonel Sanders was 
65 years old, he received his first social security check of approximately $100. He was busted! His only asset was a secret recipe for frying chicken. He left his home in Kentucky and traveled the U.S. looking for people to buy his recipe. At times he also offered his secret recipe to restaurants for absolutely nothing! Over and over he got "the boot" from restaurant owners and managers. More than 1,000 restaurants "showed him the door" without cutting a deal. But....on his 1,009th offer, someone purchased his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. The rest is history. I have been in Hyderabad, India and eaten several meals at KFC! It's still finger-lickin' good!

You may have failed...but you are not a failure. Make your failures work for you. Let them be your teachers. You may have attempted things and not succeeded. Try again. Learn from your failures, but don't quit. I am so encouraged almost daily by a particular Scripture. "
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Galatians 6:9) You may grow weary. You may fail. Just don't quit...because your harvest will come!

You Don't Deserve It!

Does the grace of God begin and end with the sinner's prayer? Is God's grace just sufficient enough to get you into heaven and keep you out of hell? What about the life you live here on Planet Earth? Could it be that the river of God's grace abundantly flows in the life of a follower of Christ every single day of his/her life? Absolutely!

Certainly God's grace is not a license to sin. (I've heard that one a time or two.) But grace is a license. It is a license to blamelessness before the One that matters. It is a legal receipt signed by the blood of Jesus certifying that you have been made righteous. Grace is a legal license to stand at all times, justified before the Great Judge...even as the enemy accuses! God's infinite grace is a legal license to confess every sin we will ever commit and instantly be forgiven. Oh that we would know the amazing grace of God! 

Grace brings freedom, because it is more powerful than sin that binds. Grace is more powerful than judgment. One who truly understands God's grace is one who keeps on walking with Jesus, even when he/she stumbles. Grace is FOR you. Judgment is AGAINST you. Grace makes you justified in God's sight and blameless before Him. 

The most powerful aspect of grace is that we simply do not deserve it. Not only do we not deserve grace, but we cannot attain to it. Here's where it is powerful: God had mercy and extended grace! We don't deserve blamelessness, but we have it! We don't deserve righteousness...but we are! God did it through His Son Jesus. Jesus left His glory as God, the Son. He came down to our planet from heaven, became one of us, took upon Himself our sins, and paid the price we couldn't pay for them. The cross is all about this. Jesus Himself was sinless so through His sacrifice we are sinless! 

In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul speaks of a ploy by God to keep him humble. (Of course, you and I never have that problem. Right?) This "thorn in the flesh" as Paul called it was a tremendous challenge for him. He even sought God on 3 different occasions to remove it from him. Jesus' answer to Paul was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Don't miss what is going on here. It is not about the "thorn in the flesh." It is all about Jesus being powerful in spite of weakness! It is about God being strong in you, even though you are human and struggle. It is about acknowledging our weaknesses and through surrender allowing Him to be strong in us. Through weakness, God's power is made strong. This is grace. In our eyes we don't deserve it. However in God's eyes we do!! This is grace! Even in the midst of struggle, trial, and testing, God will move mightily through you and me. When we come to the end of self, realizing we are helpless, this is when and where God will be strong in us. This is grace. This is the unmerited favor of God. You don't deserve it and neither do I. But we have it! Walk in it! Live it! Share it!


The Chronicles Of A Missionary (India Part 5)

Hyderabad, India

God Always Provides When We Reach Beyond Our Own Abilities


I have experienced some interesting situations during the travel part of my trips to India. As I have stated before, the trip to India is about a 20 hour journey...one way. It consists of several legs, meaning several connections and layovers in various airports.

On my first trip to India I had just boarded the plane and settled in for the 8 and a half hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. I began to talk to the person sitting next to me in the window seat. His name was Joey. Joey was from India, but had lived in Atlanta for a number of years. His wife and children lived in Atlanta as well. Joey was traveling back to India by himself to attend the wedding of a family member. He was delighted that I was headed to India for my very first time. He seemed interested in the purpose of my journey...to preach the Gospel. We talked a good part of the flight to Germany where we both were making the same connection in Frankfurt to Mumbai, India. We arrived in Frankfurt very early in the morning for about a 4 hour layover. During our layover we drank some good German coffee and waited for our next flight.

On the next flight Joey was in a different section of the plane. By this time I was pretty tired and slept a good bit. We arrived in Mumbai just after midnight (10 and a half hours different from the clock in my body!). When I deplaned in Mumbai and was walking up the jet way, Joey was  waiting for me at the end. Joey was a God-send! This was my very first trip to a very different country. It was a blessing to have him as he helped me through customs and immigration. I had heard so many horror stories about going through customs and immigration. It was a breeze! My flight continued on to my flight destination of Hyderabad about 6 hours later.

God was faithful to provide help for me. When we make the commitment to step out beyond our comfort zone, even into difficult circumstances (for Him), He always provides. We never begin to realize the potential of God's provision until we step out in faith!

A Lesson Learned...By Someone Else

On my second trip to India I boarded the plane in Frankfurt bound for Mumbai. I was seated next to a young man named A.J. A.J.'s family was originally from India, but he had never lived there. He too was on the way to India for a relative's wedding. A.J. had never made the trip before.

A.J. was a young business man and was a nice as could be. He was dressed out! He wore a 3-piece suit and an overcoat. In addition he carried a nice attache case. To tell you the truth, he stuck out like a sore thumb. I learned before my first trip to dress extremely casual. You don't really want to give the impression that you might be carrying a lot of money for several reasons. One I will explain later. I really enjoyed talking with A.J. on the flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai. I was able to share the purpose for my trip as well as the love of Jesus. He seemed very interested in my trip.

We arrived in Mumbai just after midnight. We had to transfer from the International airport to the domestic airport by bus. When you disembark the bus at the terminal there are folks waiting to help you with your baggage for a tip. A large number of folks. They are very persistent about helping. I had learned to say "no" since I traveled lightly and didn't have but one bag. You simply keep walking, pulling your bag saying "no" until you get inside the airport! Well...A.J. got off the bus and decided to get some help. He fished for his wallet somewhere in his overcoat (it was now about 80 degrees), and when he pulled it out money went everywhere. American money! People from everywhere converged on A.J.! He was on the ground trying to retrieve the money he had dropped (much of it paper money). From this point on, no one was interesting in helping me any more. After all, I was dressed in bluejeans, a long-sleeve tee, and sneakers! I quietly walked into the airport...unnoticed! I waited for A.J. to enter the airport. He did finally make it safely with all of his belongings!

On all of my trips I have learned the journey can be just as impacting as the destination. These experiences have taught me much about life itself. Life is much more than goals and destinations. Certainly these are important. But getting there is half the fun as someone once said. I've learned to enjoy the journey as well.