Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Living God’s way isn’t always easy and teenagers seem to have it particularly tough. Spend any time around youths and you will hear, time and again, that they feel restricted while trying to live” right”. Doing the right thing often means that they can’t do what their friends do. So when they see all the things their friends are participating in, teenagers assume those activities are more rewarding, exciting and fun.
What teens do not realize is that the lifestyle they crave is like eating a lot of candy. It tastes good and then the taste encourages the desire to eat more, leading to obesity, a host of health problems and cavities.
An elderly Christian man in living in Communist-controlled Budapest remarked when asked about the effects of persecution and discrimination on the lives of Christians: "It is like the deep, fast-flowing Danube River. The banks of the river were artificially narrowed throughout the city of Budapest. As the result, the river's fast waters dug deeper and deeper into the river bottom. Believers under restrictions and persecution have limited freedom and few political options, but their narrowed lives have found great depth by going deeper in Christ."
1 Corinthians 6:12 states: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything."
God is not trying to restrict our freedom, He is seeking to release us from bondage that can lead to sin and death (Romans 6:18). John 8:31-32 states, "...If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Also, Galatians 5:1 states, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore, keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."
The real hope for teens is knowing that true freedom is never just doing what you want to do. It is always finding pleasure and having joy and peace in doing what benefits you and everyone else around you. Freedom can be compared to eating a balanced meal with plenty of vegetables and really enjoying it.
Does the love of God create in you a desire to obey, serve, and to pray to Him each day? Are you passionately pursuing your relationship with God? The Bible says that we can love Him even though we do not see Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:10-11).
How do we create a viable, loving relationship with Jesus? In 1 John we learn that "..whoever keeps His word in him the love of God has truly been perfected...". So we can generate God's love in our hearts by being committed to obeying His Word, and then we will be excited about obeying because now we are in love with Him. John 14:14 states that, "If you love me, you will keep My commandments." This is why Paul states that we should live a life of love, because it allows us to worship God (Ephesians. 4:2).
When we love God, God responds is a beautiful way. In Psalms 91:14-16, the writer tells us what the Lord promises for those who love Him: "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble I will rescue him, and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him, and let him behold My salvation."
The greatest command that we should all be committed to is "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind..... You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37, 39)
I challenge you today to fall in love with Jesus, and He will put everything else in its rightful place.
Proverbs 13:24, 22:6, 15; Ephesians 4:14, 6:1-2, 4; Colossians 3:21
A father’s role in a family has long been a source of discussion and high emotions in our society. A father clearly has an impact in his child’s life but what does God say about his role? How important is a dad’s involvement in the rearing of his children?
According to God’s Word, children are to turn to their dads in order to find a living definition of our Father in heaven. Men are required biblically to teach their children (Exodus 18:18), to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24; Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) and to train their sons (Proverbs 22:6). Children are also required to honor and obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2).
The family structure as designed by God, and as outlined in scripture, supports the proper spiritual, emotional, and social development of a child: "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name." (Ephesians 4:14-15).
All of this is extremely important because the bible states that, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15). Solomon also said, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
If a father does not take the disciplining of his child seriously (Ephesians 6:4), then the child stands a good chance of growing up to be a bigger “fool”. If we are reading the national statistics accurately, our young men may be falling into this trap. Most murder victims are black men between the ages of 15 through 24, and, according to the FBI, they account for more than 55 percent of all crime in America. Juvenile jails are over populated and in the city of Houston, we are considering building even more facilities.
Many problems in our school systems are caused by young boys experiencing behavioral or learning disorders. We must take the raising of our kids seriously, whether you are a single parent or married. If you are a single mom, I advise you to get the father involved in raising his child. If that is not practical, consider enrolling your son in your church’s male mentoring program or your daughter in a mentoring or etiquette workshop. Raising children takes time and sacrifice. Yet the rewards are remarkable!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Going to Rwanda and St. Marten is probably one of the most challenging demands God has placed before me. It is challenging because of the expense, being sensitive to my family and their concerns, time in preparation, long travel schedules, and the responsibility to the team that travels with me and being a pastor to the flock that God has called me to serve.
What is amazing is the joy it brings to provide college level information to the pastors who in turn impact the members of the churches they are called to serve. It is a blessing to see how engaged they are to learn what God has blessed us to share. It is exciting to know that the information we provide is not going on a shelf for when the time may come to use it. The information is used immediately to touch the lives of people in the Congo, Rwanda, and Burgundy, St. Marten, Trinidad, Barbados and many other Caribbean countries. It will impact people in the Congo who have just gone home from a long stay in refugee camps, pastors in the Congo who come to a central place to share one Bible so they can teach their people, pastors who in turn share with other pastor friends who were unable to come to the conference, and pastors who so want to teach the truth that they would make tremendous sacrifices so that they can effectively serve the Lord faithfully.
It is this kind of impact that God has called us to provide that makes the trip worth the sacrifice. I pray that God place us upon your heart to pray for us, contribute to God’s call to make a difference, and pray that God continues to use these pastors and leaders to impact lives for His glory and honor.
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap it we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10).
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Is your life filled with trials or lessons? Your answer to this question will determine your level of frustration or your level of maturity. A life of trials can be exhausting, often leaving a person weary and defeated. On the other hand, a life filled with lessons creates experiences that build on each other. Life becomes one growing experience after another, a testimony of God’s grace and sufficiency.
Now please do not confuse a struggle with a trial. A struggle can be missing the ball game only to encounter someone who tells you the score. A struggle is burning an evening meal or missing the bus after work. A struggle is temporal, short lived and can be easily overcome. A trial is different because it can be a persistent health issue, being laid off while on a tight budget that is supplied from paycheck to pay check, or being a single parent with no financial support while having kids that are consistently giving trouble at home and at school. A trial is not always easily resolved by human effort and sometimes an attempt to resolve the trial only complicates the experience. This is why trials can be problems or lessons.
David, while tending his father’s sheep, was anointed by Samuel to one day become the king of Israel. This historical event and his defeat of Goliath created a major trial for David as Saul, the king at that time, persecuted him. David could not stop the trial from persisting, and he could not control its intensity. This trial caused David to dig down deep to apply God’s Word, trust God and as a result, there is a transition from Saul’s reign to David’s kingship. The more David ran from Saul, the more popular he became and the larger his following grew (1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 9). However in the case of Jonah, who was told to go to Nineveh, he saw all the problems with the “call” rather than the lesson and chose to run from God. He encountered trials that were beyond his control and could not be easily resolved with human effort. Jonah’s trail remained an unresolved problem because he remained upset with God. By choosing to lean to his own understanding, Jonah’s trial was one problem after another rather than a continual developmental process (James 1:2-4). David’s trial turned into a lesson, a growth process, and a course that led to his ascension to king because he decided to trust and obey God. Trials can be growing lessons or remain persistent problems.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:26-28)
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 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. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Study Passage: Psalm 23, Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21,
John 21:7-17, John 15:13-14
Our level of response to anything in our lives depends on what it means to us. If our kids are important to us, we would nurture and care for them; if our cars are important to us, we will wash, polish and care for them; if our home is important to us, we would properly care for the air conditioning system and such. If our jobs are important, then we would be careful not to act in a way that would risk being laid off or fired.
What does Jesus mean to you?
What He means to you will dictate your response to Him each day. This answer will determine the significance of your worship to Him today. Is He your Savior or has He become your friend? Has He become an integral part of your life? Is He your strength for living?
Who is Jesus to you?
David would respond by saying, "God is my rock and my shield" when He needed God in battle, but in his daily walk, God was his Shepherd (Psalm 23). Daniel would answer, "God is the best prayer partner he ever had," and Paul would say, "Christ is his strength and reason for living" (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21). Peter says, "Christ is a patient and forgiving God" (John 21:7-17). John would probably say, "Christ is my friend" (John 15:13-14).
So, again I ask, what would you say He means to you? Answer this question today and allow Christ to develop a meaningful relationship with you as He had with Peter, James, John, and Paul.
Study Passages: Malachi 4:6; Proverbs 17:6
Being a father is as important as breathing. Our children, families and society cannot function in a healthy manner without fathers. "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:6; NASU) Fathers are as essential to God’s plan as brakes are to a car traveling at a high rate of speed. The beginning work for being a good father starts when a child learns to say ‘no’. This verse has shaped by life; “Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6; NASU)
There was an 11 year old who was traveling with his family from Toronto to Eastern Ontario, the birthplace of his father. They reached the neighboring villages of Ventnor and Spencerville around midnight, long after the residents had gone to bed. Although his father was hesitant to wake any families, he needed directions to find the old homestead where they were to spend the night. Reluctantly he stopped at a darkened house and knocked on the door. After several minutes of waiting, the yard light came on, and an older man opened the door. He could hear his father apologizing for the inconvenience and then he identified himself as the son of Pearson Lockerbie – the boy’s grandfather who had died more than twenty years prior. “Oh, come in, come in,” said the old man. “No trouble at all. We knew your father.” This is the greatest legacy a father can leave his son.
In our society, there are many things more important than being a father – dating lots of women or owning a lot of worldly goods, to name a few. Even being respected by others is more important than being respected by our families. Satan always reverses God’s order. God made Adam to have a relationship with Him and after that was established He gave him a wife and children, who all lived peaceably in the Garden. This order must be maintained because without a relationship with God, man would have many wives and many children in many places, resulting in chaos.
A grown man awaiting surgery in the hospital was talking with his father. “Dad,” he said, “I sure hope I can be home for Father’s Day. I still remember how awful I felt when I was 10, because I never gave you a gift that year.” The father replied, “Mark, I remember that Saturday before Father’s Day. I saw you in the store. I watched as you picked up the cigars and stuffed them in your pocket. I knew you had no money, and I was sad because I thought you were going to run out of the store without paying. But as soon as you hid the cigars, you pulled them out and put them back. When you stayed out playing all the next day because you had no present, you’re probably thought I was hurt. You were wrong. When you put the cigars back and decided not to break the law, Mark, you gave me the best present I every received.”
Being a father is more than just about DNA, it is about giving life to many people for many years to come. Allow God the Father, by way of God the Son, through God the Holy Spirit to carve out His life in you so that through you His life blesses the lives of your children.
Have a Happy Father’s Day!!!!
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Study Passages: Philippians 1:21; Galatians 2:10; Revelations 4:11; 1 John 4:4
Super Bowl Sunday is almost here. Only two teams, out of 32, will play. At the start of this season, I bet most teams had high hopes that this was their year to reach the pinnacle, the Super Bowl. Each of the coaches and their staff worked tirelessly during the season, and even off season, to find and train the best players that will take them one step closer to the goal. Can you imagine all of the man hours invested? All for one event? The Colts and Saints are excited to be in the Super Bowl, no doubt, but no one just wants to play in it - they want to win it.
We too are in a Super Bowl battle of sorts. There are only two teams and our team is not only in the game, we are focused on winning.
We have a horrific enemy who is constantly scheming and relentlessly wants to destroy us. He loves to unload fiery darts and tries to overload us with this world’s worries and cares (1 Peter 5:6-11), so that he can steal our joy (Luke 8:14).
But what a team we have!!!
Jesus Christ, our quarterback, is committed to present us to His Father as a radiant church (Eph. 5:27) and is working out His salvation plan in and through us (Phil. 2:12-13). Paul teaches us that we live in “heavenly places” which is in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). The Holy Spirit lives in us (1 Cor. 6:19), as His Helper (John 14:16) and angels are around us (Hebrews 1:14). John says; "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:27-30, NASU). We also have armor to withstand the attacks of the enemy (Ephesians 6:13-16). What a team!!!
So the question remains, “Are we just glad to be on the team or are we ready to take our place on the field of the Spiritual Super Bowl?
Live for the glory that victory through Christ provides (Philippians 1:21; Galatians 2:10; Revelations 4:11; 1 John 4:4). We have a powerful faithful team!!!
Study Passages: Luke 10:25-28; John 13:35; 1 John 4:7-12; Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21- 35; Philippians 2:1-5; Colossians. 3:16
A young Christian couple came to their pastor’s office confused and frustrated about their marriage. They asked the old preacher, “Why did we have so much joy together when we were dating, and now in our first year of marriage, all we seem to do is bicker and fight? Where is the friendship and companionship?”
After staring at them intently for a minute, the old preacher responded, telling them that when they were dating compassion ruled their hearts. He asked each to remember how willing they were to serve the other. Back when they dated it didn’t matter the amount of time, energy or inconvenience, each was willing to sacrifice for the other. They were willing to allow Christ to be the center of their relationship. They made time to pray, to read God's Word and serve together in the church.
Realizing how far they had drifted, the young couple looked at their preacher and asked, “What must we do?" He said, “Every plane that takes off must land, and in each case it needs a runway. Your relationship follows a similar pattern. Dating and then when you exchanged vows was the first runway, your honeymoon is like your smooth flight over the ocean and then your arrival to marriage for a life time is the second runway. Everything you did when you took off from the first runway you must repeat when you land on the second runway.”
There is no mystery in making a relationship last. We must follow God’s pattern. The joy of unity is maintained when we are willing to have compassion for one another, and serve one another (Philippians 2:1-5), and to allow God's Word to rule (Col. 3:16).
I know that this will call for sacrifice. The more we submit to Christ then the more of Christ we will experience. The more we seek to live in joy and unity, the more we will encounter God's glory. This will also allow us to have greater strength and a joy that can triumph over arguments and stress. Remember, love can last a lifetime when you allow Christ to pilot your relationship.
Study Passages: John 14:16-18, 26; Romans 8:26; Matthew 28:20; John 15:1-8; 1 Peter 5:7-8; Psalms 91:1-4,11.
During World War I a plane flown by a Tuskegee pilot was badly damage during a fierce battle. The pilot struggled to maintain his altitude as he made his way back from the long mission. He held on for hours but could no longer control the plane. He radioed to some of the other pilots to say his goodbyes and to wish them well. They kept shouting back at him telling him not to give up.
Each pilot tried to tell him how he could maneuver to keep the plane in the air. But he knew he could hold on no more. Then suddenly two planes appeared at his side. He shouted at his fellow pilots to get away because he did not want to put them in danger. They did not respond; they had decided to put their wings under his wings and carry him the rest of the way. This was very dangerous because if their wings fell off, they would die with him. They determined that the danger they were facing was not greater than their friendship, so for miles they carried their friend until he landed safely.
When we make our way through life there are times when we become wounded. We do our best to hold on. We put on a smile like everything is all right. We tell everyone that everything is all right. But over a period of time, these trials find a way to wear us down. We become overwhelmed and feel like throwing in the towel. Remember that God has provided us the Holy Spirit who is our Helper, Comforter and Friend in our time of need (John 14:16-18, 26; Romans 8:26). God is so faithful that when we forget that He promised that He will never leave us, nor forsake us (Matthew 28:20), He never forgets. The only thing that we must keep doing, like the wounded pilot did, is keep flying (John 15:1-8), believing in our hearts that as we cast our cares upon Him He will care for us (1 Peter 5:7-8).
Psalms 91:1-4,11 says; “He who dwells in shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust! For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”
When our trials seem hard to bear, trust in the Lord and believe in your heart that God, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and His heavenly forces, will carry you to a safe landing.
Study Passages: Matthew 12:25, Ephesians 4:25-31, Psalms 90:12, Ephesians 5:15-16, Romans 14:19, Romans 15:7
There is no question that racism exists. It may not be as dangerous or as difficult as it was back in our grandparents and parents day, but it can still be painful. Racism can lead to isolationism, where different races do not live near each other or even worship with each other. This may create a sense of immediate gratification but the long-term results are a divided nation, divided neighborhoods and even divided churches. God’s Word is clear: this leads to a nation, neighborhood, church that will not stand (Matthew 12:25). In order words, they will soon be destroyed. Such division encourages hate, evil and malice which then gives Satan a foothold (Ephesians 4:25-31). The long-term results are hateful and poisonous to everyone.
Will Norton, Jr., best-selling novelist, told a story about his best friend who died when he was 25, a few years after he had finished Mississippi State University. Will was in law school, when he received a call for him to meet his best friend for lunch. While eating lunch his best friend revealed to him that he had terminal cancer. Will asked, “What do you do when you realize that you re about to die?” His best friend told him that it was really simple. You get things right with God, and you spend as much time as you can with those you love. Then you settle up with everybody else.” Then he said, “You know, you ought to live every day like you have only a few more days to live.”
This story highlights Psalms 90:12; “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” Life is not guaranteed (Ephesians 5:15-16), but we do know that we will live forever with each other in heaven. As believers who are being transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18) we should learn to live at peace despite the pain and frustration.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18)”. “So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Romans 14:19). “Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7).
Study Passage: Proverbs 6:16-19
Have you noticed how lying has become such a part of everyday life that it sometimes becomes difficult to distinguish reality from lie? For example, do reality shows depict life as it is or is it a scripted story filmed to look real? Movies, soap-operas, and even pro-wrestling programs glamorize a story line (a lie) and try to pass it off as truth.
One day a mom asked her young son, “What is a lie, honey?” He said in a serious tone, “Mother, a lie is an abomination to the Lord, but a very present help in a time of need.”*
Funny as that is, many people agree. Lying can become so common place that parents sometimes instruct their children to lie. Back in the days when kids traveled on trains to get somewhere with their parents, they didn’t charge for kids that were five or under. And so this six-year-old fellow was told by his mother, as they were carrying their bags to the train, “Tell ‘em you’re five.” The little boy frowned and he got on the train and sat down. And the conductor came by and said, “How old are you, son?” And he says, “Uhh, five.” So he didn’t pay anything. His mother paid her fare and the conductor left. The conductor came back a couple of hours later just to talk to him – rubbed his hand in the little fellow’s hair and said, “Well, how are you getting’ along?” The boy answered, “Really good.” The conductor continued their chat and said, “Let’s see, when are you gonna be six?” And the little boy said, “About the time I get off this train I’m gonna to be six.” It is interesting that a child can find it difficult to lie, yet as adults we seem to do it so easily.
Today, how many parents tell their children to do the same thing in order to pay a lower price for a movie?
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” (Proverbs19:5). To lie is seek to distort truth or to imagine things that did not occur. This is because to speak truth is to reveal a fact. Truth is to report something that has occurred exactly the way it took place or to trust that something will happen based on the creditability of the source.
Pledge in your heart today not to participate in lies, whether they are “little white lies” of convenience or really big whoppers. Living between the lines of blurred truth, as TV shows and movies often do, is the same as living in the dark.
Living a lie is like moving around in the dark. A person may get around but it is a lot of trouble that can lead to a broken toe.
*Paul E. Holdcraft, Snappy Stories That Preachers Tell.