To Hell With the Devil

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  — Matthew 25:41

I was working out at Total Fitness one morning.  Lately, when I’ve been working out, I listen to the You Version Bible app, or I listen to a sermon that relates to what I’ve read in the Bible recently.  It is normally very easy for me to ignore what is around me, get lost in the reading, get in the groove of finishing all of my sets, and then get out of there. 

For whatever reason, on this morning I could just not concentrate.  I was starting chapters over and backing up to repeat things because I was distracted.  The music in Total Fitness was a little bit louder than usual.  In addition to not being able to drown it out with my ear buds, they were playing just about all of my favorite 80’s rock songs from back in the day.  It was like they were just calling out for me to just turn my stuff off and rock for a while. 

I said a prayer, “Lord, help me to concentrate on You and Your Word.”

It didn’t help.

What did happen was the very next song came on with this killer power chord and these high-pitched harmonizing guitars.  I thought, “Whoa! Where have I heard this before?”  I turned my stuff off and I listened.  

Speak of the devil

He’s no friend of mine

To turn from him is what we have in mind

Just a liar and a thief

The Word tells us so

We like to let him know where he can go

To Hell with the devil

Needless to say, I have been cranking some Stryper lately.  

God, you are absolutely amazing.  As many times as I’ve been in Total Fitness, I’ve never heard a Christian song.  You played that one right after I prayed.  There is no one like You.  Help me to live for You.  Help me to recognize when I’m being attacked by evil.  Then, help me tell those demons boldly and loudly where they can go.  I look so forward to the day when my faith becomes sight and I get to meet the One who has been with me all along.  Amen.

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Lighten the Load

Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

Burden:  A load, particularly a heavy one

I have never really given this verse much thought.  However, I have seen two pictures of this verse this past week and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.  One is from my own experience and is kind of weak.  The other is from my wife’s experience and is just awesome.

My friend and I both drive busses and pretty much leave at the same time every morning.  Lately, it has been pretty stinking cold in the mornings.  Our goal all year has been to simply pray together each morning before we officially start our day . . . you know, that “two or more” thing.  In the process, if he gets there first, he fires up both busses.  Likewise, if I get there, I fire them up.  We never actually said, “Whoever gets here first, crank both busses.”  It occurred to me yesterday as I stepped onto the warm bus and endured only about 30 steps of cold that we have (in a sense) carried one another’s burden.  We’ve only “suffered” (and I use that term very loosely) half as much as we would have had we just taken care of our own busses.  Semi-lame example . . . I know.

My wife on the other hand has shown me a perfect picture of it.  When someone I love gets sick, I offer up frequent prayers to God, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’m carrying part of the load.  When her friend and family member was sick and worried, I watched my wife become sick and worried while remaining in constant prayer.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen this before.  I also watched with my own eyes the worry of the sick person decrease as my wife picked up part of the load . . . a perfect fulfillment of Galatians 6:2.

Can you remember what it was like to be completely lost and on your way to hell?  The first time that I heard the gospel and knew that I was separated from God . . . man did I worry, and man was I scared.  As I was led in the prayer to receive Christ, I could just feel that worry melt away.  I no longer carried it all.  Jesus carried it for me.

I just read my Action Bible and saw Jesus carrying the cross.  I saw Him literally allow them to nail Him to it.  He put up no fight.  He could have, but He didn’t.  “He saved others; himself he cannot save” they shouted.

Turns out, He was still saving others.

He was saving me.

Lord, I will spend the rest of my life thanking You.  Help me to honor You for the rest of my days.  Thank You for showing me a picture of what it is like to bear one another’s burdens.  Help us Christians to get this right.  If the lost world could see the church really love one another . . . You would be irresistible.  Amen

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Stages

Stages

Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  — Numbers 33:1

I was reading this chapter that I would normally just kind of skim over.  All it does is give all of the places that the Israelites camped as they were led out of Egypt and into the promised land.  As I read them, it occurred to me that each one of those places served a purpose.  There was no randomness to it.  God was leading them and taking them exactly where He wanted them to go.  

There were two places that kind of caught my mind.  Verse 5 says that they left Rameses and went to Sukkoth.  Some places we have to camp “Sukkoth.”  Sukkoth is actually now one of the Jewish festivals where they celebrate the temporary huts they stayed in while in the wilderness.  I would imagine that many at the time thought that it “sukkoth” to live in these little huts.  I would imagine that it “sukkoth” to not know where your consistent source of food would come from.  We get on to the Israelites so often for complaining.  I’m pretty sure we would be no different if we were in their position.  God has led me through some places that I wouldn’t necessarily desire to repeat the journey.

Verse 11 says they went into the Desert of Sin.  It was here that they consumed all their food they had brought with them from Egypt.  This was a true opportunity for them to rely on God’s provision.  As soon as they left, they began to complain.  Considering the fact that I complain when I have to wait for a table at Outback knowing that I will absolutely feast in the next hour or so . . . I’m pretty sure I would have joined them.  Nevertheless, they had the opportunity to fully rely on God’s provision, but they chose to whine and complain.  Lord, I’m so sorry that complaining is my default.

The heading of Numbers 33 reads “The Stages of Israel’s Journey.”  I started thinking of my own journey.  Many of these places I would not like to repeat my stay, but I can say they have all been necessary and have all been beneficial to my journey.  They didn’t Sukkoth too bad.

Adam’s journey out of Egypt began at Calvary Baptist church.

He went from Calvary Baptist to Stamp Creek Landing where he was saved.

From Stamp Creek Landing he went to Open Door Baptist.

He went from Baptist churches to several Pentecostal churches.

Because of Pentecostal churches, he met his wife.

While with his wife, they went through the land of Hurt and Loss.

Through Hurt and Loss, they landed at Golden Corner church.  

While at Golden Corner, they learned to truly trust in the Lord.

While trusting in the Lord, they became ministers at Lifeline.

They left Lifeline and it led back through the land of Hurt and Loss.

Hurt and Loss led them to wander in The Wilderness with their family and a couple of other families.

Who knows where we will land or what we will do next?  I sure don’t.  But I’m so glad I know the One who does.

Lord, every stage You have brought me to and through has been so necessary for my development.  Help me to stop complaining and learn to simply trust.  You’ve never let me down.  It may seem like you have in the short term, but in the long term You’ve always proven Yourself more than faithful.  I love You.  Not with the love You deserve, but with the love I have.  Help me to grow in my love and my trust for You.  Amen  

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Wrong Thinking

Wrong Thinking

Peter answered, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!” – Acts 8:29

This verse is a rebuke to Simon the Sorcerer.  Apparently, he was a former affluent figure in the community who could consult spirits and amaze people with his sorcery.  When the apostles were scattered due to persecution, they landed in his territory and began preaching the gospel.  Simon ended up giving his life to Christ.  When he saw the Holy Spirit received by the laying on of hands, he wanted the gift.  He tried to buy it.  He got sharply rebuked.  

On the surface, it does not seem like such a bad request.  I mean, Simon wanted to be a vessel in which others could receive the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately for him, he was ignorant of all that Peter and John had gone through with Jesus in order to receive such a gift.  He didn’t know that such a gift had a price that went much deeper than money. 

I’m just sitting here reading and thinking about this story and can’t help but apply it to my own life.  I’ve been so wrong on many things concerning God.  I remember for probably a decade that I thought God was after my good behavior.  I basically spent all those years trying to be good and “do better” only to fail miserably time and time again.  Thank God He made sure I failed, I can only imagine how awful life would be if I thought behaving well and following the rules made Him happy with me.  Eventually, I learned that He wanted my heart.  He wanted me to just learn how to spend time with Him.  Once this happened, I wanted to behave and no longer had to behave.  I could just imagine Peter saying to me, “May your good behavior perish with you because you thought you could be good enough to enter into His kingdom!”  

As a pastor, I would have sworn to you that if the Presence of God was facilitated, if His Holy Spirit absolutely filled the atmosphere Sunday after Sunday, that people would not be able to resist it and would come and be saved.  I got to be part of some crazy powerful services.  Some would come and be so excited about the Presence of God.  Others just didn’t connect with me, or what was going on.  I was devastated when I had to leave, but God has taught me so much.  Instead of trying to make sure that His Presence shows up on Sunday morning, it is now happening in front of my bus before I drive it.  It is happening at breweries when I sing songs of praise to Him.  It is happening when kids ask me to pray for them because they want to begin to grow in God.  I don’t think He minded if we had His presence in the building, but He so much more desires it to be in our homes, places of work, and anywhere else we may find ourselves.  

Lastly, I just finished a fast.  It was probably the wimpiest fast I’ve ever done.  I just cut out all sweets and junk food for 21 days.  I normally go pretty hardcore and make sure I suffer.  I thought the more I suffered, the more of Himself He would give me.  This time, it turns out that He just made me feel a whole lot better physically.  It turns out that He has allowed me to be so simple in just walking with Him daily.  I have pursued nobody as far as witnessing or anything like that, yet he has placed so many in my path along the way so far in 2021.  I think this is going to be a pretty amazing year.

Lord, there is no telling how many things in my heart, mind and life that I’ve just been wrong about.  I know there are ways of thinking that seem good on the surface, but are just wrong.  Will You help me to think rightly?  I just want You . . . and nothing else.  Help me to learn to truly walk with You.  Help me with my own kids as I teach them to truly follow You.  It is so tempting to just tell them all of the rules they need to follow and enforce them.  Unfortunately, that does not make them want to give You their heart.  Help me!  Help all of those who are reading today.  Use us to make a difference.  Use us to bring Your presence to a dying world who knows not just how awesome and mighty You are.  Amen

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New Life

Truly, truly I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24

Lately I have taken a new approach to witnessing to others.  Instead of basically telling people they need to say the “sinner’s prayer,” I have likened it to a seed going into the ground.  I show them an acorn.  I let them know that they can keep the acorn of their life exactly like it is . . . nothing will ever change.  Or they can put it in the ground.  Over time, it will produce new life.   

I have a friend who found some acorns from a beautiful white oak tree.  He planted them in his greenhouse.  Around the exact same time, I was witnessing to someone frequently.  Several times I know I could have gotten him to say, “the prayer.”  I patiently waited and kept talking to him.  Weeks later, I got an email.  It simply said, “I’m ready to plant my seed.”  All the while, the acorns had produced nothing.  We began to wonder if they were going to produce at all.  This past Friday, my friend brought me one of the plants.  You could see only the most barely visible green leaf sticking up.  You literally had to be looking for it to find it.  A few people happened to see it and couldn’t help but laugh a bit.  Remember, this was Friday.  I’m going to upload a picture from where it was three days later.  New life!

The person I was witnessing to could not believe how it shot up.  We talked about how even though he was about to plant his seed, it may take a while for him to see new life in his own heart, mind, and life.  Just as we were beginning to wonder if it would ever produce life, it did . . . in its own time.  I simply told him to put his seed in the ground, cover it up, water it with the Word of God, and trust with all of his heart that new life would come out of it.  Over the years it would grow and grow until it was practically unmovable.  It would grow to produce even more trees.  Needless to say, I’ve never seen with my own eyes such a patient understanding of what it means to grow in the Lord.

Is the kid all fixed right now?  Does he have zero doubts?  Did every bad and sinful habit go immediately away?  Of course not!  Nor should we expect it to be this way.  What we can do is pray!  Pray that God finishes the work He has just begun.

It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars

The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

He’s still working on me

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Hold On

Hold On

Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.  – John 8:32

I have heard quite a few sermons on this verse in my life.  I’m pretty sure when I was younger that I took this verse to simply to mean that the “truth” part was “accepting Christ,” and the “set free” part was “not going to hell.”  This morning, I’m taking a look at the context immediately surrounding the verse.  It reveals so much about this truth that sets us free.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” – John 8:31

There were many Jews that had just begun to believe in Jesus.  Maybe it was because of the miracles, and maybe it was simply for the way He spoke.  Nevertheless, Jesus tells them that to truly be His disciple, they must hold on to His words.  As I was witnessing to someone recently, he quickly let me know that he “did that”, meaning he asked Christ into his heart.  However, he told me that he doesn’t believe anymore because of so many questions and doubts in his mind.  I tried to sufficiently answer a few of his questions, but I told him to simply remain in the Lord.  I told him to never give up on God because He will absolutely never give up on him.  As our conversation went on and on, he said he could feel that God was not letting him go so easily.  I prayed for him.  I ask you guys to say a prayer for this young man as well before you read on.

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say that we shall be set free?” – John 8:33

This one may be more difficult than John 8:31. When you are young, it is remaining in Jesus and holding on to His teaching that is tough.  Yet, when you become more mature, it becomes a little easier to rest on your laurels.  Many Jews thought they were good to go simply because they were Abraham’s descendants.  In addition, what a stupid thing to say about being slaves to no one . . . I’m pretty sure they knew the scroll of Exodus and that they had been slaves in Egypt.  Even as they said those words, they were under Roman oppression.  The point is, many people today believe they are saved because they “help people”, because they have “always been in church,” or because “my family raised me right.”  There are a lot of wrong answers to “How do you know you have been truly set free?”  

Then, how do you know? 

All I know is that the power and the love of Christ drew me in when I was sixteen.  I sinned more after I was saved than before I was saved.  I let the devil convince me so often that I wasn’t saved at all because of the way I behaved.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was so much power in simply “holding to His teaching” and never letting Him go.  I just kept bringing my sin to Him no matter what I did.  I never wanted to know life without Him again.  I still don’t.  Twenty-nine years later, I still know what a wretch I am.  I know how easily I can wander and get too far away from the shepherd.  Many times, God lets me feel far away from Him.  It is then that I want to “hold fast,” and run back towards Him.  He is absolutely irresistible.  

I write all of that to say that maybe the truth is revealed over time as you hold fast to Christ’s teachings.  As I’ve learned more and more truth over the years, I’ve learned that my heart is deceitfully wicked.  I’ve learned that without Him, I’d be so lost in this life right now.  Who knows what I’d believe or just how lost I would be?  What is the truth?  The truth is that I need Him more now than I did when I was sixteen.  Therefore, I fall at His feet and plead with Him to change me and make me more and more like Him.  Most of all, I plead with Him to never let me go and always draw me back to Himself when I become that little lost lamb wandering from the 99.

Father, there is and never will be anyone like you.  Who has even heard of a God like you?  You know all things.  You know my heart.  You know the heart of the young man I was speaking with recently.  Help us to hold fast to your word.    Continue to change us over time.  Continue to show us just how much we need you and help us never ever think we have obtained salvation because of something we have done in the past.  Hold fast is present tense.  Right now, I fall upon You Jesus, and Your Word.  Thy Word is truth.  May the truth set me free.  Amen

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Perception Vs. Reality

Perception: “But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” – Numbers 13:31

Reality: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.”  — Joshua 2:9

How many times have I swore that I could not do something or thought a situation was impossible?  How many times have I rejected the call of God to go and tell someone about Him because “there is no way they would ever listen to me or even entertain the thoughts of God entering their heart, mind, and life?”  After reading these two verses it is abundantly clear:  If God has asked you to do something, He has already paved the way for it to be done!  

Rahab was a prostitute.  She knew the men of her town’s hearts because they came to visit her . . . probably often.  She heard them tell the stories they had heard of the parting of the Red Sea and the plagues God sent to Egypt.  These men knew that there was something special about the God of Israel.  When the spies from Israel came to visit Rahab, they weren’t looking to receive her services, God had sent them there to save her and her family.  

Just like us, she had only heard the stories of the greatness of God and all that He does to save His people.  The stories were enough to make her believe, leave her place of comfort, and go with God’s people.  

Lord, help me to always focus on what is really true.  I’ve been convinced along with others that 2021 will be worse than 2020.  I refuse to believe it.  2021 takes You not by surprise.  May Your people come to really believe Your truth!  Truth is what You say in Your word.  Thy word is truth!  When my mind wants to race with impossibilities, let me not convince others of my own opinion like the spies who brought back a bad report to Moses.  I will believe the report of the Lord!  Like Caleb, may I immediately say in my heart, “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to conquer it.”  Let this be a year of true belief for those who love you and are called according to Your purpose.  Amen

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Born Again

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, which is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2:11

I know I didn’t post a WMD yesterday.  Honestly, I sat down to write, but I had nothing.  I could have cranked something out, but I never want to do that.  If God doesn’t give me something, why write?  Men speak and may stimulate the intellect, but God speaks, and it penetrates the heart!

I have learned in the past few months that the opposite of love is not hate.  The opposite of love is indifference.  If my wife all of a sudden hated me, at least she still thinks of me and I’m somewhere in her heart and mind.  I think I could live with that and hopefully undo that hate.  Yet, if my wife became indifferent towards me and could basically take me or leave me, that would suck.  At least with love or hate, passion is involved.  

I say that because I feel like I have become a little indifferent towards God.  Sure, I’ve been getting up in the morning and going through the motions of reading the Bible and all that, but He has felt so far away.  I know I can’t put that on Him for He is always pursuing me.  Somehow, I just haven’t longed for Him.  I haven’t wanted to sneak away and just be alone with Him like I once did.  I wondered this morning if there was anything in the Christmas story that would speak to me on this Christmas Eve.  I asked Him ever so simply, “Lord, will you help me?  Will you show me something?  Will you change my heart?

I thought of Christ literally being born.  I read Luke 2:11. Then, I thought of how He has literally been born again in the lives of so many believers over the past 2,000 years . . . including me.  I thought of how we live in this world, especially America, and it screams “Separate from God!  You can have everything you need and want right here in this world right now . . . You don’t need Him.”  Sin is constantly trying to separate us from God . . . even after we are saved.  So, I cried out to Him, “Lord, will you be born again in mecreate in me a new heart, a clean mind, and a will that seeks after your face?

It is amazing the simplicity that God seeks.  I’m not saying it is easy, but it is without a doubt ever so simple.  I don’t know where you stand with God at this very moment in your life, but I would encourage you to make an honest assessment, admit where you are, call out to Him, and let Him be born again inside of you.

For unto us this day is born a savior . . . He is Christ the Lord!

Merry Christmas!

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My Little Lexie Cat

My Little Lexie Cat

“Are not five sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”  — Luke 12:6

If God does not forget even a sparrow, then surely, He will not forget the best cat I’ve ever owned.  Sunday night, our family cat, Lexie, drew her last breath.  We were allowed to have her in our lives and got to take care of her for six years.  A cancerous knot began to grow on her side that was apparently caused by a vaccination.  We had it surgically removed, but it came back with a vengeance.

I would normally never write about an animal in a devotional, but I do feel that God was glorified through my cat.  Once, when she had been missing for days, we thought she wasn’t coming back.  We prayed for her safe return as a family. Lexie loved to sit on the outside swing with me and listen to the You Version Bible app.  I went outside, started playing it, and immediately she turned the corner, hopped up next to me, and listened with me.  I couldn’t believe what I had just witnessed.

If any one of us was sick, this cat stayed right beside us until we were better.  Last year around this time, when I was absolutely crushed and devastated, she stayed right up under me.  I was trying to act all cool and like nothing was wrong, but my family knew because Lexie wouldn’t leave my side.  

I’m attaching a picture with this WMD.  At this very moment, it occurred to me that my cat was Christlike in the fact that she kind of took our pain.  For a moment, in my mind I saw her absorbing my family’s sickness, hurts, and pains.  I immediately turned to praise God, “This is what You do! Thank You, God!”  

It is my belief that if you carry any kind of burden such as worry, hatred, anger, or basically any unconfessed sin . . . it will eventually manifest itself in physical sickness.  I don’t think it is the only reason that sickness is manifested, but it is a primary reason, nonetheless.  I can’t help but believe that my cat got sick from carrying so many of my family’s hurts.  Whether that is true or not, it makes me want to glorify God so much for all that He has taken and has crucified on the cross.  

Lord, thank you for allowing us to be the owners of our little Lexie cat.  Thank you for all that she taught me.  Thank you for a real-life example of “all the earth sings praises to you.”  I’m sure there are better things to pray for, but pick her up, hold her tight, and let her know that she will see us again.  Help us to live lives that point to You.  Help us to glorify You, our Father in Heaven.  Amen

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A Lesson from The Wilderness

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  – Isaiah 40:3-4

As many of you know, my family and a few others have decided to do church a little bit differently.  Three times in my lifetime, I have seen the Lord move mightily in what would be perceived as a typical American church.  I’m talking about God Himself filling a place so that His presence can be truly felt.  Three out of those three times, I’ve been told that basically a handful of the more prominent people within those church walls were not comfortable with it.  Therefore, the church was divided, and that thick presence of God was squashed.  

It is crazy to me that God gives people this much power.  It seems like He would squash them instead. I guess it is a good thing that I’m not God.  At the same time, I’ve seen 100% of the time that good comes out of these divisions.  I know that I would have stayed at each of those three churches for the rest of my life had God remained there so powerfully.  The only reason I moved is because I felt like I had to.  Apparently, it is not in God’s plan for me to stay in one place for too long.  Had everything stayed like I wanted; I would never know what it was like for God to provide in The Wilderness.  

I remember the first day at The Wilderness.  I made no advertisements that we were even meeting.  The only mention I made was in a WMD called “An Invitation to the Wilderness.”  When Tonya and I were driving up Highway 11, it was one of those nasty, misty, rainy days.  We arrived just a few minutes early and nobody was there.  I was disheartened, but I refused to be discouraged.  I told Tonya, “You know, maybe this is just a test.  Maybe all God wants is for us to go under that tent and just pray together.  Maybe He just wants to see if we will be faithful even though nobody comes.  We can definitely pass this test!”  

I probably don’t even have to tell you that we had no more than started praying when two vehicles pulled in.  One with some very familiar faces that just made my heart leap.  The other with a couple that I didn’t even know was in the country and would have never thought to invite.  We had an unbelievable time in the Lord.  I left in absolute awe at God’s provision.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I pray that I’m always astounded at the things He does and just how He works.  He is nothing short of amazing.  

Lord You are the great provider.  I’ve learned things in the Wilderness that I’m not sure I would have or could have learned anywhere else.  You are making my mountains low.  I can see in my own life where I’ve been so prideful, and now you are bringing me down to my rightful place in a way that I can handle it.  You are raising up my valleys.  There are so many areas where sin keeps me from experiencing You in all of Your fullness.  Thank You for making my path straighter. Continue to work in me so that rough places become level, and rugged places a plain.  O Lord, I just want to give my life to You all over again.  Not just the parts that are easy, but the parts that are hard.  Live in me so that I may learn how to truly love the Lord my God with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind, and all of my strength.  Live in me so that I might learn to love my neighbor as myself.  Help us to truly lift You up in The Wilderness so that You may truly draw all men to Yourself.  Amen.

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