Stories of Obedience

We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands.  Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His work, love for God is truly made complete in them.  This is how we know we are in Him.   – 1 John 2

How can we know for sure that we are saved and that we know God?  I don’t know about you, but it was a long time before I was certain.  I was constantly answering altar calls to be saved for years.  I just wanted to know that I knew Him.  I’m guessing that John wrote 1 John after he had been a follower of Jesus for quite a few years.  He had a lot of experience.  I imagine when he wrote these verses that he had a lot of experiences under his belt where he obeyed God.  I believe it is these experiences that give us confidence in our salvation.  If you or I never do anything hard for God, how can we know without a doubt that He is in us?  I’m not saying at all that these experiences save us, but I am saying that these experiences provide the confidence and assurance that we are truly in Him.

When I look back, my mind always goes to this t-shirt that I saw.  On the front, it said “If you died today, where would you go?”  On the back, it said, “It is the burning question,” with flames all around this verse:  

But the fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.  – Revelation 21:8

I went straight home and looked up Revelation 21:8 to make sure that was in there.  The word “liars” really scared me because that is what I was.  I immediately knelt next to my bed and repented.  The next morning, I had to work, so I prayed and told God that I would not lie today and asked Him to help me.  All was fine until I wrecked a golf cart being stupid.  The front end was caved in, and I had to take the walk up the pro shop to tell my boss.  Absolutely everything in me wanted to tell a lie.  I had plenty of good ones.  Just before I walked in, God reminded me of my promise.  I took a deep breath, said “Ok God, here goes,” and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  My boss ended up respecting me for being honest.  I thought I’d have to pay for the damages and that I would lose my job.  I did neither.  On the drive home, I could not thank God enough.  I knew in that moment that He could be trusted with my life.  It is one of many stories that provides that assurance that I know Him.  I would never have told the truth if I hadn’t been saved and been learning from His Word just how He wants me to be.

What I’d like for you to do is think back over the course of your Christian life.  Is there a story of obedience that gives you confidence today that you know Him?  Is there a hard decision that you have made simply because you knew it was what God wanted you to do and not at all what you wanted to do?  Take the time to write it in the comments. If you write it here on WordPress, I may cut and paste it onto my Facebook thread.

Lord, thank You for working in my life and giving me stories I can look back on to strengthen my faith and my obedience.  I pray that You prompt many to write and through their stories You will inspire others to simple obedience.  Help us who say we are Your followers to truly be the light that shines before men.  Amen

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In My Weakness

And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  — 2 Corinthians 12:

I’m always amazed at how God teaches me things.  I knew this verse as far as memorizing it, but until now it has never really meant anything to me.  You see, this past week, I had some things happen.  For one, I knew all week that I was going to be filling in for one of my friends and preaching at his church.  Every time I know I’m going to preach; I do my best to spend as much time with God and in His Word as I can.  The picture I have in my head is of Moses going up on the mountain to be with God.  In a similar way, I want my face shining.  I want God’s power to rub off onto me as much as possible so that His people might really experience Him in power.  

Well, it didn’t work out like that this past week.  Every time I went to be alone with God, I found anything and everything else to do.  I had my Bibles, I had my Bible software and study materials, but I didn’t really open them.  Time would zip by and before I knew it, it was time to head off to work . . . and I had done nothing to strengthen me for the day, and I had nothing to preach.

Late in the week, God used me in my piddling.  While I was on social media (when I was supposedly going to spend time with God) I felt guilty for being so weak minded all week.  Right before I was about to click off, I saw this post from this boastful guy.  I struck up a conversation with him . . . to make a long story short, God ended up using me to witness to Him, and to others. 

As soon as that conversation was over, I hit my knees and immediately connected with God.  This verse was the only thing that came to my mind over and over.  “Wow, God!  You used me in my weakness!” was all I could think to say.  One more time, He allowed that sweet, sweet presence to surround me.  One more time, I just poured myself out telling Him just how awesome of a God He is. 

Even after that, I did almost no Bible study to prepare for Sunday.  When I thought about how I needed to go and study, I simply said, “When I am weak, He is strong.”  I did think of some things to say.  I thought of how Peter denied the Lord.  I thought of how that needed to happen.  He had just boasted that “I will never forsake You, Lord!  Even if all these others do.”  Not exactly words of weakness.  Once he realized that he couldn’t back those words up, Peter became quite useful to God’s kingdom.  I also thought of how David needed to go through all that with Bathsheba.  He had regressed so far from being the boy who trusted God so much that he wasn’t afraid of the giant.  God used David’s weakness to bring him to a place where he would say, “Lord, will you create in me a clean heart again?”  

Lord, You are amazing!  Thank You for bringing me down so many notches this past week.  Thank You for teaching me concepts in Your Word in ways that I will never forget.  In my mind, I have thought that I was so necessary for Your kingdom.  The truth is, You simply allow me to be a part of it.  Help me to learn to rely upon You more.  Help me to learn that when I am weak, Your strength is truly made perfect in me.  Forgive me, Lord.  Make me more like You and create in me a clean heart.  Amen.

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Heart Check

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. – 2 Chronicles 16:9

Every once in a while, before I study the Word, I like to say in my mind as much scripture as I know.  I like to think that if I didn’t have a copy of God’s Word, that I would still be able to sustain my spirit by the Word that is written on my heart and mind.  Even though I had this verse memorized, I didn’t know where it was.  I also had no clue what the context was, so I studied it this morning.

King Asa was the king of Judah.  Baasha was the king of Israel.  Baasha decided to build a fortified city in between them so he could stop people from coming or going into Judah.  Instead of going to God and asking for His help, Asa took money from the temple treasury and paid an enemy king to protect Judah.  Temporarily, the plan worked.   

A preacher by the name of Hanani went to see king Asa.  He told him that he was very foolish to rely on enemy help.  He reminded him that two other times enemies invaded, Asa trusted God and the Lord protected them both times.  Because the king refused to trust God this time, Hanani told him that war would never depart from him during his reign.  This infuriated Asa.  He threw Hanani into prison and began to brutally oppress some of his own people. 

After reigning as king for 39 years, Asa was struck with a foot disease.  Even then, he refused to ask for God’s help.  Instead, he chose to pay physicians who ultimately didn’t help him.  He died two years later.  

Just two chapters before, the Bible says that Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord.  I wonder what happened in that 36th year of his reign that made him decide to ask an enemy king for help when he had complete and perfect access to the help of Almighty God.  More importantly, I wonder if this could happen to me. 

Lord, please help my heart stay fully committed to You.  When Your eyes range throughout this earth, I really hope that you see my heart and strengthen it.  Help me stay on track.  Help me stay in love with You.  Help me to only do the things that You would have me do.  May I never rely on my enemies for help.  May I always seek You first and Your guidance for whatever comes my way.  Help me soak in Your Presence that I feel so mightily right now for as long as I can.  I love You.  Amen.  

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The Incredible Blessing of His Presence

Then Moses said to Him, “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  — Exodus 33:15

By American standards, Moses had it made.  To protect him from being murdered, his mother placed him in a basket and put him in the Nile River when he was just a baby.  He literally got found by the richest household on the planet.  He had access to the nicest and best of everything that the world had to offer.  One would think that he would have taken full advantage of his wealth and simply ate, drank, and just been merry.

By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. – Hebrews 11:24

Moses rejected what most Americans wish for.  He rejected financial security.  He rejected the safe life.  He rejected the comfortable life.  Had he not done this, we would not even know who he is.  As it stands, over 3,000 years after his death, almost everyone on the planet knows his name.  

I have been thinking about the life of Moses so much lately.  He fled Egypt and ran off to Midian where he settled down and got married.  I imagine it was a nice, comfortable simple life.  One day, Moses ran into the presence of the Lord in the form of a burning bush.  From that point on, Moses would follow the instructions of the Lord.  The Lord would place Moses on a path that seems on the surface to be a rip off.  He went back to Egypt and lived among the slaves.  When God’s plan didn’t produce instant gratification, the people rejected Moses and despised him and his leadership.  When God led them to the Red Sea, Moses looked like the biggest idiot and the worst leader ever.  The Israelites and the Egyptians thought he was so foolish, but when that Red Sea parted, they knew Moses led them to the exact right place at the exact right time.  

Here is where this gets crazy:  God had Moses lead them to a desert.  Moses could have lived in Egypt simply requesting the best food and drink money could buy.  Now, he does not know how in the world God will supply the basic needs of a multitude of people out in the wilderness.  This is the life he willingly chose.  Who in their right mind forsakes a life of ease for a life of difficulty?

Answer:  Someone who has experienced the authentic presence of The Lord.  

I remember my first real taste of the Presence of God.  It only lasted for a few seconds.  I literally asked Him to turn it off because I couldn’t take it.  Ever since that moment, I have chased Him.  There is nothing like His Presence.  There is nothing like following Him where He leads.  I speak to young people who can’t believe that I’ve been married for almost 20 years.  They think that is the most boring existence to be with the same person for that long.  They don’t know that God’s Presence is all over my marriage.  When I became a teacher, people told me it was the dumbest profession I could have gone into, but that is where I feel that He is with me.  I would hate to do any other job without Him.  When God led me to pastor for 6 years, I may not have received the approval of man, but I did have His Presence and I learned things I could have never learned otherwise.  Even now, who in their right mind volunteers to preach services in the wilderness where there is no guarantee that anyone will come at all?  I did . . . simply because I believed that He was asking me to.  There is no way that I would understand just how faithful He is if I had rejected that invitation.  He is absolutely the best thing that this planet offers.  He is always on time.  He is always faithful.

At this very moment, I have so many difficult decisions to make about the days ahead that could certainly affect the rest of my life and the life of my family.  But also at this moment, I am typing this at 4:39 a.m. just soaking in the Presence of the Lord.  When He is right here and I’m ever so aware of it, those decisions don’t seem so hard.  They don’t seem hard because I just know that He will lead me to a place where I will find more of His Presence.  He will go before me.  

Lord, with all my heart I want to follow You.  I just want to be where You are.  I love these moments of just knowing You are right here with me.  Who am I that you are the least bit mindful of me?  I love You, and even saying those words I know that You gave me that love.  Every good and perfect thing in my life has come from You.  When I’m on the mountaintop, You are there with me.  When I’m in the lowest valley, You are there with me.  At every place in between, You have been there with me.  Thank You so much for being the God that you are.  Let my feet never wander where You do not lead.  Amen

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How Else Could I Become Like Him

The disciples were first called Christens at Antioch. – Acts 11:26

In America, a lot of people call themselves “Christian.”  In the Bible, people who did not care a thing about following Christ, called those who did follow Him “Christians.”  Read Acts 11:26 once more.  It was not a term of endearment.  It was a derogatory term meant to convey that they thought Jesus was dead, but not there are these “little Christs,” these “Christians” popping up everywhere and they act an awful lot like He did.  They don’t mind giving up everything they own.  They love like He did.  They pray like He did.  They forgive like He did.  They are willing to be crucified . . . just like He was.

I am just a few weeks from ending what I call my “wilderness season.”  I was so hurt by and so disillusioned with what I thought was supposed to be “church,” that I just couldn’t go back into one for a while.  In a weird way, this pandemic kind of made it mandatory for me to follow through with this wilderness season.  I have learned so much about who I am, who I want to be, and the process that God uses to make me more like Him.

I remember one time that just a few of us were meeting outside.  It was so cold and rainy.  I thought about how we would be much more comfortable studying the Word inside.  For some reason though, it just felt good to be uncomfortable on the outside of my body, and for God’s Word to be warming me up on the inside.  How else would I have ever experienced that?

There have been two moments in the wilderness that I was hopeless that nobody was going to come.  I said to myself that I was okay with it.  I resolved that even if it was just Tonya and me, we would read the Word, discuss it, pray, and that would be just fine with me.  Even though I was resolved, I was kind of inwardly testing God without saying it out loud, “God, how could You possibly lead someone else to join us?  Nobody really knows about it.” Once, I wanted to join my daughter when she said, “nobody else is coming.”  Both of those times and every single other time someone came.  How else would I have seen Him work like that?

Jesus Himself was not immune to scrutiny.  Pharisees constantly accused Him of breaking the third commandment because He would heal someone on the Sabbath.  They would complain about the most ridiculous stuff.  Ever since I chose to follow Christ, there has not been a single non-believer I can remember who has ever scrutinized me.  Not once have they cared about the details of what I believe about the Bible and God.  Yet, there have been quite a few Christians who have completely discredited me due to me engaging in some behavior they don’t, or not engaging in some behavior that they do.  When I entered the wilderness season, it was a little too easy to say, “they are just a bunch of religious snakes.”  But now, I can see times where I wasn’t any different.  I can now honestly pray for them, or at least say “forgive them.”  I want the best for them.  I want them to know Christ fully.  I want the entire Christian community to come together and truly be unified and be one.  This is how this lost and dying world will come to believe in Christ.  This is the recipe for revival.  This is how our world will be transformed.  How else would I have learned that?

Lord, I look for so much comfort in this world.  I look for everyone to like me.  I sometimes can’t stand my enemies.  I wonder why You allow things.  Help me to truly realize that Romans 8:28 is true in all my circumstances.  You are working it all for my good.  Why shouldn’t I be wronged?  You were.  Why shouldn’t I be rejected?  You were.  Help me to learn to be thankful for these things.  How else could I become more like You?  I love You, Lord.  Lead me and guide me wherever You are going . . . for that is where I want to be.  Amen

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Consequences of a Religious Spirit

And in the process of time, it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. – Genesis 4:3

When I read the Bible from start to finish, every time I get to these words in Genesis 4, I think “right here was the birth of religion.”  As far as I can tell, God never asked for any kind of offering to be made.  It appears that Cain and Abel, maybe with some help from dad, came up with a religious system.  They felt it would be a good thing if they made an offering to God.

Abel chose wisely.  He chose the very thing that God used to cover up his mom and dad’s sin.  Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them.”  Most speculators believe that it was the skin of a lamb, especially considering Jesus would go on to give His own skin as “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  It makes sense that Abel would choose the same animal as an offering to God.  I imagine his thought process, “You covered mom and dad with the life of a lamb, now cover mine.”  How could God resist blessing such an offering?

Cain offered up some sort of plant.  We know that Adam and Eve tried to use plant life to cover their own sin.  Genesis 3:7 says, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.”  We know for a fact that this was not sufficient to cover sins.  We know even today that it is not by our own efforts that the Lord saves and restores us, it is by the blood of Christ, and Christ alone who saves us from sin.  

Why do Christians still get it so wrong?  Why do churches get it so wrong?  Why do I still get it so wrong?  I would swear that when I’m studying the Word, doing right, praying regularly, and figuratively sewing those fig leaves that He is so pleased with me.  Then, on the other hand, when I just feel tired and slack, and I get away from my devotion to Him, I think the Lord is displeased with me.  After all this time, I can still think it is by my might and my strength that God is pleased.  Abel is still teaching me, “The lamb is enough, and the lamb is sufficient.”  

A couple of weeks ago I went back to some old habits.  I was thinking about the lukewarm church of Laodicea and how God asked them to go back and do the things they did when they loved Him . . . the things they did “at first.”  (See Revelation 2:5).  I was thinking of this on my couch in the living room.  I thought about how for the past few months, I had spent time with the Lord in a different room and it hadn’t been as powerful as when I used to spend my mornings with Him on the couch in the computer room.  To make a long story short, the glory of the Lord fell immediately when I went back to where I’ve always considered my “prayer closet.”  

Here is where the religion aspect comes in.  I was thinking that God would make me spend a few weeks doing things “the right way.”  In my mind, if I did well, then He would know I was serious and maybe we could get back to being really close.  Believe me, writing this down right now, I know how stupid it sounds.  But, in the moment, it was just the way my mind was working.  Well, on the third day, God just opened heaven and filled me up.  He filled me up with forgiveness, with mercy, with grace, with presence . . . it was so much more than I could stand at one time.  I was crying so hard, and the thought entered my mind, “You would do this for me Lord after only three days?”  He didn’t even have to say anything.  I knew instantly that every good and perfect thing in my entire existence had been a gift from Him all along.  I didn’t earn a thing.  He just freely gave His presence simply because I did what His Word said from a heart that simply wanted more of Him.  

I have no idea if this makes any sense to you guys or not.  But I want to plead with you for a moment.  If you think God’s favor is upon you because you help people, attend church regularly, give an offering, read a devotion every day, or are simply a good person, think again.  He flat out says, “There is no one good.” (Mark 10:18). I’m not saying those things are bad, they can be good if done from a heart of love for Him.  I often wonder how many times I’ve traded a God thing for a good thing . . . that is a lousy trade.  Today, tell Him today that you love Him, or at least want to love Him.  Tell Him you just want to be close to Him.  Tell Him you want to feel His presence and all the fullness of His goodness.  Is there anything you don’t do now that you did at any other time in the past simply because you loved Him?  Is there a place you used to meet?  Is there a song you used to sing?  If the answer is yes and you aren’t as close to Him as you were before, go back to the things You did “at first.”  You just might find presence like you’ve never known.

Lord, thank you for having Moses write about Abel.  He simply offered up the same sacrifice you made for His mom and dad.  Once again, I receive the same sacrifice that You made for me and countless others on the cross at Calvary.  I want to live for You.  I want to serve You.  I want to want You above everything else this planet offers.  I want to work for You out of a heart of love, not out of a sense of earning anything.  Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and help me to walk by that same Spirit.  There is nothing like being close to You . . . the Good Shepherd.  Amen.  

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Loving the Unlovable

I had writer’s block this morning and had no clue what to write about. So, I began reading some of my old WMD’s. I’m glad I did. This one was written seven years ago.

Choosing to Love the Unlovable

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. — Luke 6:35

Some things in the Bible are hard to understand, especially as a beginning Christian. This scripture is one of them. In Luke 6, Jesus says we should do good to people who do not appreciate our goodness. We should show love to our enemies. We should loan to people we know won’t pay us back. We should just give our stuff to people when they ask for it and not demand it back when they do not return it. Jesus says even sinners do things for people they know they can trust. As His followers, we don’t get to be like everybody else. We are to purposefully show love to those we don’t even like.

This must be the hardest thing in the world. Several years ago, a few of the teachers at my school discussed this from an educational perspective. We concluded that this tells us as teachers that we should give our best to the students that we wish we could kick right on out of our classes. Every teacher likes to teach the “good” kids. Jesus would say “even sinners love to teach the good kids.” However, we as followers of Jesus must treat the “bad” students the same as the good. In most cases this will require extra effort and time on our part. If you are like me, you say “why in the world would I want to do that when I know it won’t help? Those kids won’t do the work. It won’t make a difference. They won’t pay attention. They won’t care. They won’t __________.”  Why should we do this when we know we probably won’t get anything in return?

Here are three reasons:

1. God just might intervene and use us as the tool that helps get one or more of “those” kids back on track. We could be the ones that help them break free and do something with their lives. Maybe by the way we show that we care, we make them want to become good students and make something of themselves. Maybe they don’t recognize what we were doing until they are older and become parents. Maybe they choose to break the cycle of destruction in their own family line and their behavior stops with them and does not repeat for another generation. Maybe it is a future teacher down the road that reaps the reward of our work. If this happened with one out of a hundred kids, wouldn’t it be worth it?

2. We are the most like God when we do this. He gave His Son to die for us when we didn’t deserve it. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). He gave us His best expecting no immediate gratification. In light of that . . . How can we not do the same for others and show the world what He is like?

3. He will REWARD us! In Luke 6:35 it says if we do this “your reward will be great.” I don’t know what this means as far as being rewarded down here or in Heaven when we get there, but either way, it sounds pretty sweet. If someone takes from me and I can just let it go, or if I give and don’t expect anything in return, whatever God chooses to reward me with will be much better than just getting back whatever it was that was taken from me in the first place. His rewards are ten thousand times better than the rewards of men.

I know this is tough stuff.  Just don’t think that because I’m writing this that I have it all together and do this perfectly. The only thing I’ve become really good at is recognizing that I failed to do it after the fact. But sometimes, and I mean sometimes, I get this right and it opens the door to the ultimate conversation. Eventually, somebody always asks “Why are you like this?” My answer is always the same . . .

Because the living Lord Jesus Christ . . . is like this to me!

Lord, I ask for so much help this school year. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Help me to let my light so shine before men that others may see my good deeds and want to glorify You, my Father in Heaven. Help me to forgive who I need to forgive. Help me to do what I need to do. Help me to walk each day with a sense of Your Presence. Work in me. Live in me. Do great and mighty works in Your Name. Help those who are lost not reject so great a salvation. Amen.

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225

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to your goodness knowledge; — 2 Peter 1:5

I have been very inconsistent at working out.  I’ve sporadically worked out for several months at a time ever since I was sixteen.  Usually, I get in pretty good shape, life happens, and I just quit, rinse, and repeat the cycle.  Well, when Covid hit, I quickly found myself being lazy, eating a lot, and gaining the Covid – 19 . . . pounds that is.  I thought, “Well, I don’t really have anything else to do,” so I started back in the gym and have stuck with it for probably my longest period ever. 

With that being said, I’ve always wanted to bench press 225 pounds.  It is just a weightlifting benchmark for someone to be able to put 4 of those 45-pound weights on a 45-pound bar and do it.  I tried several times along the way with no success.  I only count it if I take it off the rack, rep it, and then put it back.  This past Friday, I finally did it.  

I got to thinking about why it happened.  I didn’t go to the weight room thinking I was going to get it.  I didn’t even go with making the attempt in mind.  I just put 135 on the bar and started warming up.  It just happened to feel super easy . . . way easier than it ever had before.  So, I said to myself, “I think today is the day.”  I asked a guy to spot me, put the weights on, and did it. 

Sorry I took 3 paragraphs to explain that, but God spoke to me in all of this.  It was kind of a rebuke, but I’m thankful He did.  Without realizing it, I’ve made these future goals for myself, and I’ve never really done that before.  Ever since my early 20’s, I have simply pursued God, and He has literally opened every door to these huge milestones in my life:  who I would marry, where I would work, when we would have kids, where I would preach . . . etc.  It has always worked this way.  Now, I’m starting to focus on these financial goals and suddenly I’m trying to plan things out and work towards my retirement.  It’s like God simply said, “Your retirement is exactly like 225.”  I immediately understood.  

I don’t need to be getting ahead of myself. If I’m going to really be making a hardcore effort in life, the Bible tells me what I need to be working on.  I need to add to my faith goodness.  How about I just get back to working like I’m working for Him?  How about I just look for every opportunity I can to represent Him well?  I could type a whole WMD on this, but I’ve gotten bad off track with this one.  

I need to add to my goodness knowledge.  I have been studying the Word, but for the past couple of years, I just don’t have the same zeal I had while studying it years ago.  I want that back.  The Bible goes on in the next verse to say, “and to knowledge self-control.”  Another word I saw for self-control was steadfastness.  The idea behind steadfastness was “holding up a great weight.”  I really could not believe what I was seeing after God spoke this to me with the whole benching 225 thing.  I don’t have to make retirement a goal.  I don’t have to pursue ease and comfort.  God will work things out, just like He always has.  He will continue to open the right doors and make sure the right things happen as far as my future is concerned.  

Here is the thing:  The narrow path that leads to life is a difficult one.  It is like so very few people care or even notice if we veer from it.  We are to pick up our cross and carry it.  Unfortunately, it feels like setting it down is so easy to do, especially in the United States of America.  How many people do you know that really and truly deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Jesus Christ?  

Lord, with all my heart I want to follow You.  I don’t want in this last half of my life to live for comfort.  I don’t want to live as if I’ve learned enough about Your Word and read it enough times.  I don’t want to put my effort in the wrong things.  Help me make the effort to add to the faith I have in You.  Grant me a will to pursue goodness.  Grant me a mind that goes after true and pure knowledge.  Grant me the strength to carry my cross to the end.  Let me not pursue the wrong things.  Most of all, Lord, will You grant me a heart that falls crazy in love with You that I might meet the greatest commandment to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength.  Amen.

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A Real Hunger

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.  – Matthew 5:6

I remember the best hamburger I ever ate.  I was in high school.  We had just played Ware Shoals in a double header.  I have no idea if we won or lost either game, but I remember the hamburger I ate afterwards.  I had forgotten to pack a snack, so I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch.  After we played, we went to Burger King, and I ordered a Whopper.  Normally, I was super picky and didn’t want tomato, pickles, or onions.  But that day, I didn’t care, I ordered it straight up simply because I thought it would get to me faster if it didn’t place any special rules on it.  Anyway, when it finally came, I bit into the whole thing . . . onions, pickles, tomato, and all.  It was absolutely the best thing I had ever eaten.  

After that, I thought I was “cured” of being picky.  Maybe a week or two later, I went and ordered a Whopper with everything on it.  When I bit into it this time, it was horrible.  The slimy tomato, the horrid pickles, and that crunchy sharp onion about did me in.  I quickly took those things off and enjoyed the rest of it, but it was just okay.  Not near the killerness I had after the baseball games.

What was the difference?  The difference was that I was hungry.

I only think of this little story because this past Sunday, our little church service at Oconee State Park was different.  I’m not sure it was really any different, I think I was just different.  As I read the Word, it just felt so alive.  As I told a story I’ve literally told 100 times, I just cried.  As I prayed for a dear sister I’d never met before, it just felt so powerful.  As we talked about God, my spirit just burned.  As I sang to the Lord it was like I could just feel Him . . . I was basking in that sweet presence so much that I forgot the words to two songs that I would have sworn I’d never forget.  None of that even mattered.  Under that little shed, God was meeting me.  

I’m pretty sure He is always meeting me.  I think I just go into a service sometimes wanting to “take off” the stuff I don’t like.  The truth is, if I’m hungry, I will enjoy the whole thing.  I have a friend who always says, “Hunger don’t know bad bread.”  I do believe this is true in the spiritual realm as well.

Lord, give each person reading this a true hunger for Your Word.  Give us a true excitement to meet with others in Your house.  Bring revival, Lord.  Bring true and lasting revival.  Grant us a little taste of Heaven on Earth before we draw our last breath and experience the real thing.  I love you, Lord.  I can’t thank You enough for leaving the comfort of heaven just to come down and save a lost and selfish sinner like myself.  You are the greatest thing this life offers.  Amen.  

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The Ark Encounter

And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it also be in the days of the Son of Man. – Luke 17:26

My family and I took the trek to Georgetown, Kentucky to see the replica of Noah’s Ark.  The attention to detail was nothing short of spectacular.  The videos they show throughout are nothing short of powerful.  I told my wife after “The Noah Interview,” “If I wasn’t saved, I’d sure get saved right now.”  During the second video, they used the same characters to do a modern-day interview called “As in the Days of Noah.”  I told my wife, “If I didn’t get saved after the last video, I’d sure get saved after this one.”  

It is an unbelievable thing to see the Bible that you’ve read for years turn in to real life right before your eyes.  Here is what I couldn’t get past, in the days of Noah there was only one way to be saved.  You were either on that boat when it started to rain, or you were not.  Today, if you asked 100 random people in the world right now how to go on to a better next life, 31 would say be Christian, 25 would say be Muslim, 15 would say Hindu is correct, 15 would claim nothing at all, 6 would say Buddhist, and the rest would pitch a bunch of different beliefs . . . at least according to Google.  Anyway, the point is, back then there was only one way to be saved.  

Today, there is still only one way.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to add another way to be saved.  Most people today believe that if you are sincere in your beliefs, you will be fine.  That simply isn’t true.  Many people back before the flood sincerely believed they would be fine because water levels had never been near high enough to make it to the ark, much less make it float.  Jesus came to make the only way to Heaven.  You are either in Him, or you are not.  

Here is the thing . . . they believe it took Noah 75 years to build the boat.  I thought it was 100 before I went there, but they made a convincing argument.  They started the Ark Encounter in 2010.  75 years from 2010 is 2085.  What if we are that close to His return?  What if the Ark Encounter stands as a last pleading of God to get into His Son, Jesus Christ?  I’m telling you, if you visit it and read everything and watch everything, you must either receive Him, or you must reject Him.  

As I sit here typing this reflection of my Ark Encounter, I realize how much time I waste.  I waste so much time trying to be comfortable in this world.  I waste so much time hating on the people that have done me wrong.  I waste time on temporary pleasures here when I should be focused on eternal rewards.  I spend so much time making my own world better that I don’t realize I should be begging and pleading with people to escape the judgement to come.  Whether or not Jesus returns by 2085, the overwhelming majority reading this will have met their fate by then.  It will have already been decided where you spend eternity.

Lord, I am begging and pleading for You to stir a passion in our hearts for You.  Help us to truly get this.  Help us to draw so near to You.  Help us to tell others in a way they can understand.  Help us to stop all this “my way is right,” and “your way is wrong.”  We spend so much time determining who is preaching correctly and who is a heretic.  We don’t have time for that, Lord.  You said the world would be convinced when we as the church started truly loving one another.  Let it start with me, Lord.  Amen

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