I Can!

"I Can!".  That's a very short, little sentence.  But it is very powerful.  I can!  I wonder how many people heard something different as they were growing up?  Something like "You can't!".  You may be surprised at the number of people who heard "You can't!" more than they heard "You can!" growing up.  Many people today lack self confidence and self esteem because of those negative words.  However, the good news is that the Book says, "You can!"  (The Book is the Bible or the Scriptures.  I just like to refer to it as The Book because it is the manual for living life.) 

Philippians 4:13 (from The Book) says, "I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me."  Taken in total context this verse is very interesting.  What does it mean?  Let me first explain what it doesn't mean.  It doesn't mean you and I can do anything we want to through Christ who gives us the strength to do it.  For instance, I think it would actually be quite cool if I could fly!  No, not on an airplane (I love that too).  But I think it would be cool if I could just fly.  But God didn't engineer my body (at least in this life) to fly.  Just because Paul said he could do all things through Christ who strengthens him doesn't mean he could lift a car over his head either!  (Yep I know they didn't have cars back then but I'm just saying.)  To understand Philippians 4:13 in context we must look at some previous verses in the same chapter.  In verse 11 Paul says, "...for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.Then in verse 12, "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  Paul follows with that famous verse (Philippians 4:13) by saying, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  Paul is saying, "In thick and in thin, Christ gives me the strength to handle it, carry on, and make it through!"  

So often in the hard times we find it easy to say "I can't".  But the truth is...YOU CAN...through Christ.  He didn't come just to take all your problems away.  He also came to be with you in the middle of your struggles, to hold your hand, and perhaps even carry you through your struggles.  The bottom line is...through and in Christ we can face anything!  In Christ we can endure anything!  Through Christ you find the strength to rise above any circumstance even though you are in the midst of them.  We are definitely living in challenging times.  We've all had to make some adjustments and trust God even deeper.  But the bottom line is YOU CAN...even in the circumstances.  You will make it through!  But only as you find your strength in Jesus Christ and in His will for your life.  I'm telling you...YOU CAN!

You Don't Have To Start All Over Again - Again

As I was in God's presence this morning I was overwhelmed with not only His presence...but another realization of how deep His grace reaches.  This was special!  We must realize that His grace reaches so much farther than our introduction to Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Yes, that's the beginning, but God has so much more for us - because after being known by Him since before time - we now know Him...by His grace!

Too often we feel unworthy of God's best because we struggle at times with sin and the flesh.  We allow evil voices whisper to us that since we've sinned as a Christian, we've blown it and in order to get back into His grace we must go back to square one.  But that is not the truth.  To think we have to start over and that we've blown it puts us under law...not grace.  Please understand that the very nature of God's grace is that it is abundantly available to be appropriated in this walk when we fail or sin as believers.  (See 1 John 1: 9)  By God's design we confess our sins to Him and we are forgiven.  And yes, grace is not a license to sin.  But appropriated it keeps us clean from sin and unrighteousness, no matter what we have done!  That's grace.

You are worthy of God's calling on your life.  God's call on your life is irrevocable according to the Word.  You didn't work to obtain it...and you cannot commit works to cause you to loose it.  You are a precious creation of God by His Spirit.  Appropriate His grace and mercy in your life.  Whatever you've done, simply and honestly confess it to Him.  The promise is that you will be forgiven and cleansed!  Then keep on keeping on as if it never happened!  It's grace and it is yours...in Jesus!

Christianity Goes Hollywood

My last post was about The Industry of Christianity.  It's amazing how many folks are "in the ministry" for personal gain.  Whether there is a true calling or not doesn't matter if you employ the ministry for personal gain, or to build your own kingdom.  How do you know if one is employing the ministry for personal gain or to build their own kingdom?  Simple...this ministry is built around them!  It's that simple!  If this person were removed...the ministry would fall apart!  It is built on their personality.  It exalts their name and image.  Don't get me wrong.  Having a ministry named after you is not wrong.  What's wrong is when that ministry and everything about it exalts you or someone other than Jesus Christ.

Now...on to this post.  Christianity goes Hollywood!  What does this mean?  Here we go.  Much of ministry today is built on sensationalism...just like Hollywood.  What is sensationalism in ministry?  It is simply methodologies used in ministry (by man) to spice up things to make it look like God did it...just like Hollywood.  However, the motivation is to impress man in order to attract more people.  More people are attracted (by man) so BIG buildings are constructed.  When people see the BIG building they assume God has done it all.  And they assume the minister is some sort of super-minister, above and beyond the norm.  Why?  Because everything is Big!  The truth is God is not impressed at all with BIG.  He is impressed with simple trust and obedience.  God shows Himself BIG through ordinary people who couldn't do anything without Him (and they know it.).  This is NOT an attack on big ministries.  There are many big churches and ministries today (by man's standard) that are born of God and operate by faith in God.  And this world would be a worse place without them. 

Whatever happened to the pure moving of the Holy Spirit?  I'm not old fashion.  Most of you who know me know that I love the cutting edge.  I love change.  I love adapting, etc.  Whatever it takes to move and flow with God in an ever-changing culture.  But one thing that has not changed, and never will, is man's total dependence on our God to accomplish His will on this planet.  We seem to have forgotten that we desperately need Him just to gather with one another to worship Him!  The truth is...God is sensational!  How can He not be?  He is incredibly BIG and nothing is impossible for Him!  When He is allowed to be the God that He truly is, REAL stuff happens!  It doesn't matter if you swallow goldfish or balance spinning plates on sticks.  I truly believe that if we're not careful we can all be sucked into the "Hollywood" syndrome in serving God.  We can be intrigued (in the wrong ways) by flashing lights, cameras, audiences (they used to be congregations), shows (which used to be services or gatherings), props, and a host of other things we've employed to be relevant to our culture.  

Finally, why do you do what you do?  Is it because everyone else doe it?  Or because it is the latest "form"?  Just asking.  Whatever we do needs to be born of God.  Even if you are the ONLY one doing it.  

The Industry of Christianity

I wonder what the Apostle Paul would think if he could see what television has done to Christianity these days.  He says, "For we are not like many, peddling the Word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.(II Co 2: 17)  What did he mean "peddling" the Word of God?  From the original language "peddling" means to "retail" or "adulterate" the Word of God.  Even in Paul's time folks were "retailing" and "adulterating" the Word of God.  In other words, they were using the Word of God for personal gain.  Somewhere along the way (in the beginning or on into it) they discovered that the ministry of the Gospel (the Word of God) could be employed for self-gain!

I recently saw a popular televangelist selling non-perishable food for future hard times @ over $1000 a shot.  It was his way of preparing Christians for hard times ahead...@ $1000 a pop.  Jesus said that if we seek FIRST God's kingdom, and His righteousness...all these THINGS will be added to us.  (Matt. 6: 33)  This same televangelist is offering other merchandise you cannot do without for donations of $100, $500, and $1000.  Now listen.  There's nothing wrong with selling stuff to help support you ministry.  It's the same as working a job to support your ministry.  Again, absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Times are tough today.  However, it's peddling (retailing, adulterating) God's Word I'm talking about.  I once saw another TV evangelist offering holy, anointing oil (from Jerusalem) for a stiff one-time gift.  "You give this amount and I'll give you this."  I just don't think it's right for some human to determine what my blessing will be as a result of my giving from a cheerful heart.  Shouldn't that be up to God?  You see, peddling God's Word is preaching it's blessings in order to inflate your own bank account.  It's being so engrossed in this stuff that marriages and families go down the drain because the ministry is so important.  Go ahead and open up an internet store and sell the stuff.  Support yourself, (that's really OK), but just don't adulterate the Word of God.

You see, all this makes believers look pretty dumb.  Sorry about that, but it's true.  A televangelist scams millions of people, goes to prison, is released and does it again?  Come on people!  Wake up!  The world is watching and they ain't so dumb!  (Pardon the grammar.)  The purpose of Christianity is to share and spread the love of Christ.  It's ALL about Christ, a good bit about other people, and not so much about you and me!  That may sound harsh, but that's what makes true Christianity go round!  That is what truly changes a life.

And finally, beware of so-call ministries that are continually marketing crisis.  Beware of ministries that are always offering something if you give something.  Beware of ministries that always promote their high-powered founders (at the expense of godly character).  You need to pray about whom you support.  You need to investigate whom you support.  They don't have to be perfect...but make sure they are walking in godly integrity and possessing godly character.  (Coming next "Christianity Goes Hollywood")

Are You A Producer?

Are you a producer? No, I'm not talking about a movie, TV, or music producer...even though they are producers: movies, TV shows, and music. But I mean are you producing? Producing what? That depends on what you do or perhaps what you are called to do. Many folks spend years doing things they don't really like doing for the sake of making a living. And yes, making a living is a good thing, especially these days. (Don't quit your day job yet.) But I think we all struggle at different times in our lives just living a status quo, "just getting by" kind of a life-style. Sometimes we spend too much time spinning our wheels. Question: Are you truly fulfilled in what you do? If not, chances are you could probably be a better producer if you did something else. (Something you loved to do.)

I was out walking earlier this week and I feel God really, really impressed something on my heart. I'm no young whipper snapper any more (not over the hill either), and with each passing day I see more clearly the need to seriously make an impact through this precious life (only one) we are given here on the planet. What God impressed upon my heart was the realistic number of years I have left on this earth to be productive for Him. All the days, months, and years that have passed brought great opportunities, but every single one of those opportunities (taken advantage of or not) are gone for good along with the days, months, and years. That may sound some what depressing, but it is true. However, there is good news too. The years ahead that God gives me can be the most productive of my life! Looking ahead to all the marvelous opportunities He will offer, along with the experiences of the past, and with God's leading...the future is pretty bright! Now to me...that is good news.

Perhaps you are spinning your wheels. Perhaps it seems as if you're just not really producing...at least to your fullest potential. God may be presenting you an opportunity to evaluate your life. This is an opportunity you may not want to miss. Many times we overlook these opportunities because we're so ingrained in our routines (even when we hate them) or we've worked so long in a certain career field that money and getting by take precedence over being productive for Him. How many years do you have left? Truthfully that is a question none of us can answer because He is in total control of that. We simply trust Him for the next breath, and then the next, and then the next..... When I was a teenager I was convinced I was invincible. All the things I knew I needed to do could be postponed...at least for now. Why? Because I had the rest of my life. When I was a young man, just starting a career I felt I had forever to be a producer. I even thought that the years I "skated" I could eventually make up because I had so much time. Now that I am in my upper, middle age years (tell me there is such a thing), I look at life much differently. And of course, as a follower of Christ, my heart is to diligently serve Him. I truly, truly (verily in King Jimmy) want my life to be productive...and only for Him.

Finally, the Book says that if we're serious, He will redeem the time. I believe that includes the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years that we have left. Let me encourage you, no matter what your age, ask God to make each day productive for you. But be warned, He will probably require you to change in some area, and in some way. Ask Him to give you extreme opportunities to make Him known by serving others. Ask Him to show you the things that are important, not simply urgent...and then do them. Look at today as another gift packed full of opportunities to be a producer...for Him!

What Are You Doing With Your Tongue?

Proverbs 18: 21 states, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit".  Wow!  Very powerful statement.  The power of death and the power of life both come from our tongue.  James 3: 6 says, "And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell".  Incredible!  When we choose to speak death with our tongue, it ignites a fire that can defile the entire body (our own and the church).  James says the fire (upon our tongues) incinerates God's destiny for our life with fire from hell!  Is that strong stuff or what?  With that tiny little piece of flesh behind our teeth we can destroy our lives, the lives of others, and thwart God's destiny.  Man!  I've seen churches destroyed by the power of just a few tongues.  Why?  Because it is a fire that spreads rapidly from person to person.  Through deception some truly believe they are doing service to God (with their tongues) spreading the fire that in all actuality destroys.

But even more powerful than the destructive fire and death is the ability to speak overcoming, overpowering life with the same tongue!  Amazing!  When will we truly believe this?  When we can practice this...no matter what the circumstance.  I made a commitment long ago to speak life with my tongue.  Proverbs says the power of life is in the tongue.  Jesus came 2,000 years ago and defeated the power of death and darkness.  While on the earth He was tested by the enemy after he had fasted for 40 days and nights.  Matthew Chapter 4 teaches us that the enemy tempted Jesus in 3 very crucial areas.  Jesus overpowered these attempts of the enemy to thwart God's plan of salvation by saying, "It is written..."   He didn't say "In My opinion..."  Or "Well I think..."  Or "Oh God, what am I going to do?"  He simply overpowered the enemy by speaking the Word of God which is life!  Jesus finished His work of the cross and gave to you and me the responsibility of speaking life with our tongues.

To speak life means to speak against the flow of the world.  Before a person is born again they speak in line with their surroundings...the world.  But when one becomes born again by God's Spirit, they begin to speak in line with God's Word by His Spirit.  God's Word is just that...God's Word.  When I speak what He said, I am speaking what He said!  Just saying!  So let me ask you...what are you doing with your tongue?  Are you speaking death or life?  Are you spreading strife in your work place because you have talked yourself into a pit? Or...are you changing a naturally bad situation with the life in your tongue?  Just asking.  I always make it a point to speak to my co-workers and ask them how they are doing.  Nine times out of ten I get the  response, "I'm here."  I didn't ask if you were here.  I asked how are you doing!  I usually respond by saying..."Well I'm glad you are here.  Wouldn't be the same without you!"  That usually gets either a weird look or a smile from the person!

As long as we live on planet earth death and life will be in the power of our tongue.  The choice is yours, speak death or life.  What will you do?

The Power of a Grateful Heart

It's almost unbelievable how quickly 2010 is running its course.  Here we are past October and heading toward Thanksgiving in America.  I thought I'd pen a few words about Thanksgiving.  I like to call it a grateful heart or simply...gratefulness. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? It didn't start as a national holiday back when the first settlers started the concept. Actually after that first brutal winter and growing season, it was a celebration of life and harvest. The first settlers (the ones who were still breathing) gathered to commemorate God's protection and sustenance. The gratefulness was genuine. I mean think about it. Many of your family and friends died throughout that first year. Through the difficulty, death, and destitution...a group had survived and now wanted to give God all the thanks. Making it through hard times and difficulty produces a truly grateful heart.

Understand that a grateful heart is very powerful. It is a force that motivates a person to endure the most difficult of circumstances. A grateful heart can recall God's past faithfulness and envision His future faithfulness. The result is a steadfastness in the present that has a supernatural origin. No one looks forward to tough times. But it's the tough times that toughen us up! Connie and I understand tough times and I'm sure you do too. Tough times come in different shapes and sizes for different people but the result (should we choose it) is the same...a grateful heart. I'll admit, tough times can also produce numerous opportunities to complain and maybe even murmur (I'm sure you don't though.) But a truly grateful heart acknowledges that God is fully in control. We don't always understand the circumstances...but we can understand God does and has all the answers. This simply means that we can thank Him in the hard times as well as the easy times.

A grateful heart makes one sensitive to the needs of others. I don't mean this to sound bad, but there is always someone whose situation is worse than ours! What a great time to thank God for His faithfulness to us, and offer ourselves to Him to be an instrument to help others. A grateful heart. It's very powerful. A grateful heart endures circumstances because its eyes are not on the circumstances but on God.

Finally, I'm reminded of how Judah was completely surround by its enemies in II Chronicles Chapter 20. Jehoshaphat was a godly king and gathered the whole nation for prayer. If God doesn't intervene...the whole nation will be wiped out. In this prayer meeting Jehoshaphat leads the prayer and begins to thank God for all He has done and all He has promised for Israel. Then He says, "We are powerless against this great multitude, nor do we know what to do. Nevertheless...our eyes are on You." God moved in behalf of the nation of Judah and routed its enemies. It took three days for Judah's people to collect the spoils of the battle. A grateful heart is powerful. I encourage you in these hard times...remember His faithfulness, thank Him for His future faithfulness, and thank Him for all you have today. It will change things. It's the power of a grateful heart.