Don't Stop!

I am convinced that most people who follow after Christ (including myself) don't pray enough.  I think most of us understand the power of prayer...but yet we don't utilize it.  We're familiar with most of the Biblical incidents in which God moved as the result of His people praying.  We've even heard testimony after testimony of God moving miraculously as the result of prayer among believers we know.  

Until recently I was a part of a prayer group that lasted for over 3 years.  I could write a book (and should have) on all the answered prayers!  Some of our prayers were answered instantly and some were answered gradually.  There was no denying that prayer is very powerful and produces results.  We saw people healed from cancer and other diseases.  There was one person who was healed from barreness of her womb.  I remember the very evening, the way the Holy Spirit moved, and even telling her God healed her.  Connie and I were elated to visit the family in the hospital for the birth of their child several months later!  When the prayer group first started we were praying for a young couple with 2 children who were on the verge of divorce. (They didn't attend.)   When the 3 year run of this prayer grouped ended...this couple was still together!  God showed Himself incredibly powerful in many, many ways!  Prayer is so powerful!  Yet somehow we don't see the significance of it.  Why is that?

This may hurt, but the truth is we're just not connected to God enough.  You see, prayer is simple and constant communication with God.  In the Book Paul tells us to "Pray without stopping."  This does not mean we have to stay on our knees constantly.  It simply means that the lines of communication must constantly be open between us and God.  In Colossians 3:2 Paul says we must "Set our affection (mind) on the things above (heaven), and not on the things that are on the earth."  Prayer requires a conscious effort to stay connected to God spirit, soul, and body...24 X 7.  It really does require "Practicing the presence of God!"  The problem is that so many followers of Jesus today are so connected to personal schedules, dreams, career, family, ministry, etc., that we just can't accurately see the significance of Prayer.  We know its importance, but can't see its significance.  I am convinced that when we perceive the significance of prayer...we will pray without stopping.

Most Christ-followers pray when they have a need.  I can confidently say God honors that.  But there is so much more for you and me through simple, constant communication with our Creator!  Prayer is the crucial ingredient for the relationship.  In my relationship with Connie (my wife) communication is vital.  No relationship.  No marriage.  We've been married almost 36 years.  But back in our 5th year we almost divorced.  Why?  Among a couple of other crucial things...we never communicated.  When we gave our lives to Christ and made the decision to seek God to heal our marriage we also made a mutual decision to communicate...always!  This has been one of the best decisions we've ever made!  Now we love to talk, be together, and do a lot of nothing...just as long as we're together!  I am in love with my wife because we talk...a lot!  If we don't communicate with God and He with hinders our relationship.  Remember, a healthy relationship changes people and situations.  A healthy relationship with God is a relationship that impacts souls!

Let me encourage you to make a decision today.  Make a decision to practice the presence of God no matter where you are.  Talk to Him as you would talk to the One who loves you more than anyone else does!  If you have to, make yourself little notes and post them in different places to remind you throughout the day to talk with Him (even for a minute or two) and listen for His voice.  It will change your live and the lives of those around you!  I'm telling you prayer is good!

Beware of False Prophets in Church Member Clothing!

One of the joys of my life is blogging.  I enjoy sharing life from a Christian perspective as I learn, live, and grow as a follower of Christ.  My heart is to be an encouragement to people.  Not just Christ-followers...but people in general.  I truly believe that every principle of God benefits anyone who is willing to employ them.  Eventually God's principles point people to Christ...and prayerfully...a relationship with Him.

It is never my desire to ruffle anyone's feathers even though sometimes that happens.  I am convinced that the truth ultimately sets a person free if they will apply it (Jesus said it would!).    So...I will share my heart on this subject of "False Prophets (Wolves) in Church Member's Clothing".  If you a church member please don't be offended because there's a very small possibility that I am talking about you.  The purpose of this post is to alert you to the existence of wolves in the church dressed as church members and how to recognize and respond to their presence!

Jesus tells us to ""Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves."  (Matt. 7: 15)  Jesus' analogy involves wolves disguised as sheep.  Let me be very, very clear that when I (like Jesus) mention the words "false prophets" it has absolutely nothing to do with people who are called by God to fill the office of the prophet.  Jesus makes it clear He is talking about false prophets.  (People who appear as one thing, but are really something else.)    Wolves have only one destroy.  This motivation is born out of an inward drive to please "self".  "It's my way or the highway!"  A wolf will come into a relationship or into a church (or exist in a church) appearing to love God and live a holy life.  They appear to be full of wisdom and love (and will tell you so.)  However the only validation they can offer is what comes out of their mouth and/or their faithful attendance.  In God's eyes and according to His Word this is not enough.  God's Word says, "The ways of man are open to the eyes of the Lord."  In other words, God sees all...even when people only see or hear a small part.  A wolf speaks, acts, and even dresses as a sheep...but they are not sheep.  They may actually believe they are...but they are not.

How to recognize a wolf in sheep's clothing:
  • In public, before others they appear holy, but in private they are not.
  • In many cases false tears and false humility are used to persuade other unsuspecting genuine sheep.
  • Due to insecurities a wolf builds himself/herself up in the presence of others.  
  • Because of an unwillingness to confront personal issues they carry negative baggage from relationship to relationship and from place to place.
  • They are usually church-hoppers.  They stay and commit only until challenged or confronted by spiritual authority.  Then they head for greener pastures spreading strife as they go.
  • A wolf disguised as a sheep will infect other unsuspecting sheep with gossip and negative information about anyone who has confronted/challenged and thus offended them.
There are more characteristics to look for but these are some of the most common.  A wolf disguised as a sheep will make attempts to befriend other sheep in order to gather a following.  Then when they become offended over the Word, it is very, very difficult for true sheep to perceive the truth of what's really going on.  Most sheep will support the wolf because they don't want to offend their friend.  It's alarming to know that in most cases wolves deceive the sheep into making decisions based on the friendship rather than God's Word.  God's truth is actually ignored!

You see the effect of wolves (disguised as sheep) in the church all the time.  Churches are being destroyed.  Churches split.  The most damaging effect of not recognizing wolves disguised as sheep is that the work of God is delayed, deferred, or simply destroyed.  I admit this is quite negative but it is the truth.  I am sure you will agree, it is time to equip ourselves to recognize the characteristics of the wolves dressed as sheep.  It's time that God's word, His heart, and His principles be applied instead of man's selfish motives.  Peter said these words in I Peter 5: 8, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."  I encourage you to stop looking for fire-breathing monsters, spitting out threats and obscenities to God's people.  Instead look for wolves dressed up in sheep's clothing.  Look for wolves dressed up in church member's clothing!

Too Far Removed

It's a quiet afternoon in North East Georgia.  The temps are finally warming up to seasonal levels.  The sun is shinning and there isn't much I can complain about.  Life is good and all is well.  I've been perusing Face Book and offering a few tweets to my followers.  I see that someone had Mexican for lunch.  Someone else is now friends with another person, and someone else joined another group.  Life goes on.  Life goes well.  The worst I've seen so far is perhaps someone battling a virus or something.  Of course, no one wants thatPeople are building farms and zoos.  I know they're having a blast.  

But my heart is hurting today for a tiny Caribbean nation pretty far away from NE GA.  As you know Haiti was ravaged yesterday by a 7.0 earthquake, followed by several very serious aftershocks.  As soon as daylight hit today the pictures started flooding out of Haiti of the rubble and carnage.  One hardly ever thinks of Haiti, of the poverty there, and the overcrowding.  We know it is the poorest nation in the entire Western Hemisphere, but that's about all you hear.  However today the news networks are engrossed in reporting the catastrophic devastation. 

It is very difficult to relate to all the terror from the comfort of our lives here in the U.S.  Sure life must go on, but we must not proceed without a hurting heart that motivates us to pray fervently for the people of Haiti.  Just because things are at ease here today doesn't guarantee it will be that way tomorrow.  Just because it isn't the U.S. (as in 911) doesn't mean it couldn't be another time (just like Katrina).  But the greatest reason our hearts should be hurting today is because the people of Haiti are people.  I am sure God's heart is hurting today because a portion of His creation (the people) and their surroundings have been destroyed.  The people of Haiti are in shock today.  Many are injured.  Many are dead.  I wouldn't want that to happen to anyone.  

I urge you to pray fervently for the nation of Haiti.  They need our prayers.  If you are like me sometimes I feel helpless in actually doing something in a situation like this.  But the truth is we will never do anything unless our heart is hurting for the people.  We cannot be so far removed from the situation that we don't hurt.  As a matter of fact, distance should have absolutely no affect on whether or not we hurt for them.  Nothing can undo what has happened.  But people from all over the world, driven by compassion, can definitely make the difference.  People who don't allow distance to cause them to be too far removed to feel the hurt for the people.  Thanks for joining with me in praying for the situation as well as all the people pouring in to help.  We are definitely NOT too far removed.

Don't Spend Too Much

I am what you would call a morning person.  I always have been.  Most of the time it doesn't matter what time I go to bed, I still wake up at about the same time...early!  My Dad says when I was a kid I was like a vampire.  At a certain time every evening (usually not too late) I would shut down almost instantly.  Then next morning I would pop out of a deep sleep, abruptly open my eyes, and hop out of bed with a bright smile.  Well, things run just a bit slower now, but I still enjoy the freshness of a brand new morning.  I love it when the dew (in our case now frost) is still on the ground.  I love waking up just in time to awaken the dawn as David writes in the Psalms.  "Sleeping in" for me is mostly not an option or it means sleeping until just after the sun rises.  Knowing the day has begun motivates me to get out of bed before I miss too much of it!

I have learned over the years of being an early riser to appreciate each day thoroughly.  I am at an age now (not over the hill but no longer at the bottom looking up) that each day has more value than when I was younger.  At some point in my middle-aged years I realized the day that just ended was gone forever!  Each day passes like a grain of sand that falls through the hour glass.  When it is through...and there are only so many left.  Our life is like that.  Today will never come again.  Yesterday is gone.  We can definitely prepare for tomorrow, but when tomorrow becomes today we must make the most of it.

What can I do today that will impact tomorrow in a positive way?  What can I give my children today, that they will remember for the rest of their lives?  Is arguing with those I love so important that I'm willing to purchase it with time I'll never get back?  Ephesians 4: 26 says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; so do not let the sun go down on your anger."  I know now Paul was not only encouraging us NOT to give an opportunity to the devil.  He was also telling us that when the sun goes down the day has ended.  And that day, spent in anger toward someone, is gone forever.
Most of us look at the end of our lives as final.  But even from a natural perspective what we do today has an effect on people long after we are gone.  In addition, what we do today has an incredible eternal effect on ourselves!  That's why I believe Paul also writes that we should "redeem" the time because the days are evil.  It's quite easy to get involved in evil that has negative effects on our families and ourselves.  But that evil also has an effect on us eternally.  It takes a firm commitment and an appreciation of today's breath of life to redeem our time.  

Finally let me encourage you to take a break.  Stop...take a deep breath.  Look around at the day happening around you.  Slow time down a bit by enjoying the beauty of the day.  Let me emphasize once again that every second that passes by is gone forever, and you've only got so many left.

Are you smarter than a .....?

I work part-time for a fantastic retailer.  I was making my 25 mile commute the other day when a very impatient dude sped up behind me in a souped-up mustang.  I had safely pulled out a good distance in front of him.  But to let me know he had to at least come off the gas 30 seconds after I pulled out he sped right up to the rear of my vehicle.  He tailgated me pretty closely until I got into Gainesville.  As soon as we got into the 4-lane area he sped around me.  It was his way of letting me know I had thrown his entire day off due to my slower driving.  By the way, I do my best to drive the speed limit.  And when some impatient dude is tailgating me I enforce that virtue even more.  But...God is still working on me too.  He he!

This incident reminded me of a couple of things.  First, the road is a very good place to have your "Practice what you preach" tested!  Even though encountering people on the road can be quite impersonal, it is also a realm in which the true essence of a person comes out!  Second, the road presents the litmus test to determine a person's "smarts" level!  I see many people doing things on the road that really makes me wonder if they have fully matured upstairs enough to be trusted with driving a mule on a farm road.  I am convinced that driving a car safely...takes wisdom. 

The Bible says that long life accompanies wisdom.  Long life is not a reward for wisdom.  It is the result of wisdom.  For instance, speeding in a car just for the fun of it or because one is habitually late increases the chance of death for driver, passengers, and people in other vehicles.  What makes this foolishness is the fact that everyone knows it is dangerous to speed.  On the other hand, wisdom calculates possible scenarios and plans accordingly.  If you speed because you are habitually late...change your habits and live longer.  Christ-followers are in danger of presumption (tempting God) when they believe He will protect them as they violate His wisdom.

The Proverbs tell us over and over how to get wisdom.  It starts with acquiring knowledge.  Then with the knowledge comes understand.  If I understand how I can easily kill myself, wisdom encourages me NOT to do it.  If I do it anyway that's foolishness (the opposite of wisdom).  James tells us Christ-followers if we lack wisdom all we have to do is ask God for it.  God gives wisdom liberally.  But we must apply it to every day real-life situations.  Wisdom really works.  It is designed to impact lives starting with your own.  What about it?

What's Next?

Hey everyone.  Thanks for checking this out.  I just woke up, made my way into the kitchen, put on a fresh pot of coffee, now drinking it, and looking forward to the day.  Man, I just love this time of the day.  It's that time when the day is fresh, God's mercies are brand new, and you anticipate the day ahead.  No, I'm not a super-optimist.  But I've learned from walking with God a few years that each day brings with it the potential for many opportunities.  Sometimes we miss the opportunities or we even fail at opportunities.  But nevertheless...they come!  And each day brings new opportunities or even old ones presented once again.

At this time in my life I'm not sure if I have ever been more excited about our future (Connie's and mine.)  And the truth is we don't have a clue what the future holds for us!  We are in a time of transition.  What does that mean?  For us it means we don't know what is next...but we know it is of God and that excites my socks off (well maybe my bedroom slippers).  Connie and I have never been more excited and never had more peace than we do right now.  How can this be?  I have a theory.  Just kidding.  I know exactly why.  It is because we are entering a fresh new season, with fresh new opportunities to go to the next level.  It's like the beginning of a fresh new day!  Add to that, a fresh new year loaded with new possibilities.  I am so excited!  And I am on the pursuit.  The Book says that if we ask, seek, and knock we'll receive, find, and doors will be opened.  An opportunity is like a door.  Sometimes God presents us with opportunities.  Sometimes we find opportunities by asking, seeking, and knocking.  But the fact is we must utilize opportunities like we go through a door.  The door is there for the purpose of exiting one realm and entering another.  If the door is not utilized however, you remain in the present realm.  Opportunity utilized always makes us better!

I'm now sure about you, but for me change is bitter/sweet.  It is bitter because of the uncomfortable adjustments that must be made in order for the change to effectively better me.  Just when you get in the groove you have to forge a new one.  It is sweet however, because the purpose of change in my life is to offer me new and better opportunities that result in my positive progress.  The fact is if you never never progress.  So I'll have to say that when the negatives and the positives of change are placed in the balance, the scales overwhelmingly tip in favor of the positive!  OK let me just say it...I LOVE CHANGE!  It is exciting because of all the possibilities!

In 2010 I encourage you to pursue new opportunities that will help you to make positive progress in your God-given destiny.  Don't be afraid to step beyond your present status.  Don't be afraid to step out of the box.  God is there for you.  So let me ask you...what's next? 

Chalk One Up for the Red Bull

We rang in the New Year with family, football, and some really great snacks.  I had driven all the way from just north of Mobile back home earlier that day and didn't know if I would manage to make it until midnight...but I did!  At midnight we watched a really, really "Red Bull" hyped up dude jump over 250 feet of water (in a rally car) and land on a barge in the water.  Actually it was quite interesting.  Anticipating such a daring but not so brilliant stunt all evening was part of what kept me going.  We watched a bowl game during most of the evening throughout which the "water jumping" event was being promoted to take place at midnight.  I'll have to admit, the dare-angel in me proved it was worth the wait!  I got a few chill bumps!

Underlying all the excitement of a really hyper guy flying (in a car) over 250 feet of water...and landing on a barge to start off the new year was the anticipation of another year beginning.  I always get so excited at the beginning of a new year.  Some people look at the new year as the end of an old one.  And depending on what kind of year the previous one was probably establishes how excited you are about the old year ending!  But a new year means the beginning of a brand new one...with brand new opportunities!  It means fresh expectations.  I also see the new year as presenting opportunities to succeed where we may have failed.  You see, the new year is like a new day.  The Book says that God's mercies are new every single morning.  That's one in your favor!  Each day brings with it new opportunities to succeed at serving God.  Your success today is not determined by your failures from yesterday.  Oh yes, we must learn from our failures and improve from our failures.  But God's rich mercies erase our short-comings in His own eyes!  Man!  It's the same way with a new year.  2010 brings with it many God-given opportunities for you and me!  We don't know exactly what the year holds for us.  Only God does.  But we can look at 2010 with fresh expectations...even opportunities to do better!  I just thank God for a new year!  As I said before, I get so excited when a new year full of opportunities arrives.

What are you expecting this year?  What will be your part in making it happen?  How much of it are you willing to put in God's hands?  Where did you fail (or simply not succeed) last year?  A fresh, new year will present to you opportunities to succeed!  His mercies are new every year!

Join with me in launching into 2010 with fresh expectations for the new year.  Give this new year over to God at the very beginning.  Make a commitment to Him to trust Him in everything...yet to do your part in basing your attitude on His Word.  Make a fresh commitment to stand firm on His principles through the victories and the challenges.  Make a commitment to Him and a trusted friend to launch forth into the God-given vision you've been sitting on for too long!  It's time!  It's a New Year!!  What do you think?