He Loves to Give and Bless

I love the great relationship that my wife Marta has with our granddaughters. She gets to spend a lot of time with them and take them to the park, the mall, and they do all sorts of fun things. I know that both she and the girls are blessed by the time they spend together. She is a great nana. She loves to bless the girls with things they like. A couple of weeks ago at the mall, after she bought the girls some cute T-shirts, she treated Avery and Haley to a cookie. Avery took a big bite out of her M&M chocolate chip cookie, smiled and said, “I love going to the mall with you Nana.” A few days later she was visiting the girls at their house. Avery called her nana into her bedroom and said, “When I go to bed at night my mommy turns off my lamp and it’s a little too dark for me when I wake up at night.” It seems that her night light had burned out and she had been using her lamp to compensate for its loss. Avery would turn on the lamp when she went to bed and later on, her mom would turn it off. Like any good Nana, Marta assured Avery that it was okay, she was safe and that she had nothing to worry about. Even though she calmed Avery’s fears you better believe that within a few days she had bought Avery a good night light to replace the one in her room that had burned out. I love seeing the good gifts that my wife gives to the girls – gifts which are not only things that will bring them joy but also things which will meet their needs. I am also glad that my granddaughters recognize that they are loved and that they can go tell their nana what is on their mind and anything that may be troubling them. We should have the same confidence in the Lord.

Think about how much you love your kids, grandkids and your spouse. Think about how you love to bless them and take care of them. Now multiply that by one hundred or one thousand or even the biggest number you can think of. You still haven’t approached the level of the loving or giving of our God. In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus is in the midst of His Sermon on the Mount. He has taught on the Lord’s Prayer, not worrying, the Golden Rule, and many other wonderful teachings and then He shares how God’s ability to give and love so greatly surpasses ours. He says in verse 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

The Lord knows how to give. The Lord knows all of the things you need and all the things that will truly bless you. He knows all of the things that you may be doing to compensate for the night lights that are burned out in your room so that you can try to make it through the night. The Lord is ready, willing and able to bless you and meet all of your needs. As Simon Peter said in 1 Peter 5:7, the Lord wants you to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” But in order for the Lord to meet all of your needs, for Him to take your anxiety and provide you the glorious blessings that only He can, you must come to Him. You must enter the “narrow gate” spoken of in Matthew 7:13-14. You must be reconciled unto God the Father through a relationship with Christ as your Lord and Savior. He is the narrow gate. Yes, God the Father knows how to give. And He has given us His Son. Receive Him. I promise that you will love walking with Him. I promise that you will be blessed by your relationship with Him…in the hereafter and in the here and now. He will help you live and love well. Until next time keep the faith.

Posted in 1 Peter 5:7, Christianity, faith, God, good gifts, grandchildren, Matthew 7:11 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pressing On – Learning How to Play the Guitar

I bought a guitar about 7 months ago.  Prior to that, I had never owned a musical instrument.  I was praying about what the Lord would have me to do this year and I believe this was something that was on the list.  Music has always been something that has interested me and now seemed like a good time to explore that interest.  I told Marta and before you know it she helped me pick out one much nicer than I would have bought for myself.  She has always been good to me like that.

I have been learning the guitar by making use of free lessons and videos that I have found online.  And I have been diligent about practicing…up to an hour most days.  My progress has been slow but steady.  I feel like have been taking itty, bitty, baby steps most days….moving an inch or two each day.  The progress seems barely noticeable until I look back and consider how far I have come over a longer period of time, like say a month or two.  First, I had to learn and memorize one or two chords; but before I knew it, it was three or four.  Then I had to learn how strum the guitar.  Strumming “Down – Down – Down – Up – Down – Up” 300 times in a row is not as easy as it sounds!  It is especially not easy when you try to do it with a cool rhythm – without saying it out loud.  It did not take me long to realize that “I got NO rhythm!”  And when you first try to strum and change chords at the same time – your fingers feel like fat little pretzels.  They just don’t work!  It reminded me of trying to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time – it just feels so unnatural and everything falls apart before too long.  When you first try to change from one chord to another you always end up stopping in the middle of the song and everything you play sounds like some bad rendition of “Freeze Frame.”

You practice and practice changing chords without messing up the strumming pattern and about the time you start to get better then you try to add singing to the mix.  That adds a whole new dynamic to the process and the result for me was not good.  I couldn’t do it and I’m sober and yet Keith Richards did it all those years in his state of mind?  Wow!  That man must be a musical genius!  But playing the guitar has always been on my bucket list and it is something that I prayed about so I have not given up.  Despite all my mistakes, plucking the wrong strings, strumming out of time, and the sore fingers, I have pressed on.  I have asked the Lord to help me to stick with it and to help me keep making progress.  He has helped me keep taking baby steps.  He is a good and gracious God.  While those baby steps not have moved me any closer to Nashville or Carnegie Hall, they have helped me get to the point where I can play some songs that I enjoy.  I can play Amazing Grace, Just As I am, Fly Away, Jesus Loves Me, As the Deer Pants for the Water, and a couple of other songs.  The Lord has helped me to work on the songs that have worked on me through the years.  Yes, He has been good to me.  As David said in Psalm 9:1 “I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.”  Yes, I will continue to practice and sing praises to His Name.

I hope that you know that the Lord longs to be good to you too.  I hope that you know that even if you could say today that you are not where you want to be and that you feel like you are constantly making mistakes, plucking the wrong strings, and strumming out of time you can still count on the Lord to help you.  You can call upon Him, lean on Him and place your faith and trust in Him.  Christ stands ready to forgive you of your sins and as Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14 to help you forget the things that lay behind and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  The Lord is faithful.  The Lord is worthy of our praise.  Even if you have made some mistakes; don’t give up.  Press on and praise Him.

Posted in Christianity, Don't give up, faith, God, Learning the Guitar, Philippians 3:13 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking with the Master

DOG 2

We have a new puppy and in his youthful exuberance he is still learning so much.  One of the things he is still learning is how to go on a walk. Sure, he knows how to run around, chase butterflies, and tug on his leash but we want him to learn to walk in submission next to his master.

We tried to take him on some walks with one of our other dogs but that dog, though much older still has plenty of learning of his own to do.  He charges toward other dogs, tugs on his leash constantly and in general acts a fool.  We finally decided we better keep them separated for the time being so the younger pup doesn’t pick up the bad habits of the older one.  I think that is exactly the idea the Lord is trying to convey to us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 where He has Paul remind us, “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to remember that Christ had died for their sins and they should do their best to live a life that would bring honor and glory to Him.  Who we hang out with impacts our ability to do just that.  The influence of others can cause us to have negative thought patterns and can lead us to engage in unhealthy behaviors.  They can cause us to exercise our flesh rather than our faith and before you know it we are tugging against the leash, leaving our Master’s side, acting aggressively toward those who do not deserve it and spoiling a perfectly pleasant walk.  Having tugged at the leash myself several times in my life, I can testify that it is true.  Bad company can and will corrupt good morals.  We are better off walking without certain people because the walk is so much sweeter and so much more pleasant when we walk in submission next to our Master.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

 

Posted in 1 Corinthians 15:33, Christianity, faith, God, Hanging out with the wrong people, what does the bible say about friends | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting the Words Right

I asked someone how their day was going the other day at work and they were pretty honest.  They said it was a tough day, they were frustrated and they were about to ready to verbally cut loose on somebody who was getting on their nerves.  I braced myself because for a minute I thought they might be talking about me.  Once I determined I was not the immediate source of their frustration we talked about what specifically was bothering them.  As we talked I shared with them what somebody shared with me one time.  I pointed to my head and said, “When the filter is broken, turn off the sound.”  They laughed and agreed.  They said they knew that the Lord didn’t want them venting their frustrations on other people.

While venting our frustrations on others or speaking harshly certainly is not His will for us, it is definitely something that can happen.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we should “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  James said in James chapter 3 that we need to control our tongue for “from the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

Our words are meant to edify and build up others.  We are to inform, instruct and encourage.  That does not mean we never address our frustrations with others but it means that when we speak we do so in a way that glorifies God.  To do that, you have to run your words through a filter; you have to take your thoughts and your words captive to Christ.  If you are frustrated, angry, bitter or upset and the filter is just not working, turn off the sound.  Turn off the sound and go and speak silently to the Lord.  Ask God to help you calm down and get the right perspective.  Ask God to help you bring your thoughts and your words captive to the obedience of Christ.  Anything God wants you to do; He will help you to do. He will help you get the right perspective and get your filter back in place.

Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in 2 Corinthians 10:5, Christianity, Controlling our words, faith, God, James 3:10 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fish Ponds and Quiet Time

One recent Sunday afternoon I asked my 4 year old granddaughter Avery what they did in Sunday school that morning.  She replied, “We went to the fish pond.”  “What’s at the fish pond?” I asked.  “Fish” was her reply.  Avery went on to explain that she didn’t see any that day because they were hiding.  Yes, there are fish at the fish pond but there is so much more.

The fish pond is actually the Carmen and Nancy Riviello Memorial Tree Garden at Hays Hills Baptist church.  It was built by a loving son in godly memory of his parents.  It located on the church grounds, just a short walk from the sanctuary, located in a wooded area with a beautiful fish pond stocked with large coy fish.  My words do not do it justice.  It is a lovely place built in a lovely area by one with a loving heart.  And it is a great place to pray.

As Avery and I talked about the Fish Pond, we talked about prayer.  I asked her where we can pray.  She said, “You can pray at home, the zoo, you can pray everywhere…but playgrounds are noisy.”  I love that girl.  She is right.  You can pray everywhere…even at times when it may be inappropriate or disruptive or disrespectful to pray out loud.  Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing.”  We should have a prayerful heart and look for opportunities to pray and lift up supplications to the Lord.  You can pray everywhere but playgrounds are noisy.  Noisy places don’t always make for the best conversations with the Lord.  In Exodus chapter 34:2-3 when God was preparing to give Moses the Ten Commandments He had Moses meet Him early in the morning on the mountain.  No one else, not even the flocks or the herds were to be on the mountain.  It was just to be serious quiet time between Moses and God.  There were to be no distractions, no disruptions, no cell phones, no TV, no radio, no noisy playground…just a quiet place to meet.

Yes, you can pray anywhere but quiet places are nice…places like the Fish Pond.

Posted in Christianity, Exodus 34:2, faith, God, grandchildren, prayer, quiet time, religion | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Plans He Has For You

I was having a discussion with someone this week about church.  This led to me sharing about some of my hopes, my dreams and the things that God is doing in my life.  I shared with them my desire to fill the pulpit again someday in God’s good timing.  As we talked about God and how good He is to us I was reminded of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  Yes, the Lord has plans and a purpose for each and every one of us.  He longs to reconcile those who have gone astray, receive them unto Himself so that He can reward them with a place and a purpose in His Kingdom.  Sometimes the plans and the purposes that the Lord has for us are not so readily apparent.  But just because we are not yet aware of them does not mean that they do not exist.

The Lord demonstrated this to me a few years ago at another time when I was in between preaching jobs.  I had sent out about a dozen letters looking for opportunities to provide pulpit supply, waiting for my next assignment from the Lord and I was trying my best to be patient.  Patience is a virtue but it is not my strong suit.  One of my favorite expressions is “wait is what broke the camel’s back.”  Waiting is difficult for me.  It is difficult for me now and it was difficult for me then.  Several weeks had passed and no one had called me to fill in and provide pulpit supply or do anything else.  I felt like a fish out of water as I was no longer preaching every week and as the weeks passed I even began to doubt and in some ways question the calling on my life.

One Saturday morning I was working on a pave stone retaining wall in the back yard.  It was about 30 foot long and was 2 – 3 stones high to keep dirt in the flower bed.  It was similar to one I had built in the front yard a couple of years earlier.  After several hours of hard work, I got ready to put the last stone in place.  But this last stone would need to be special.  I was going to have to take a rock hammer and score it, chip away at it, cut it in half and shape it in a triangular piece to make it fit just right in that curved area where I needed that final missing piece.  The last time I tried to shape one of those stones with a rock hammer it took a long time.  As I rested for a moment and reflected on the task before me, I remembered that I had a piece of a stone left over from when I built the retaining wall around the front garden area two years earlier.  I saved it and put it in the shed and used it for a door stop.  Would it fit?  I went to the shed and grabbed the stone and took it to the new retaining wall.  It fit perfectly and slid right into place!  Tears began to roll down my face.  I had been feeling so much anxiety and concern; I was worried about whether or not there would ever be another place for me, something else for me to do.  I just knew that this was God’s way of letting me know that in His time, in His way, He would place me right where I needed to be.  I had not been forgotten.  I had already been shaped by His Hands and designated for a place in His garden.

Oh my friend, don’t ever think that the Lord has forgotten about you.  Don’t ever think that you have just been placed in the shed never to be seen or heard from again.  You are a special and beloved child of the King and He has plans and purposes for all His children – plans for a future and a hope.  Don’t be down, don’t be discouraged!  Remember whose you are!  Remember that He loves you and will never forsake you and He has never forgotten you!  Trust in the Lord and be patient.  Hold open doors until He places you in a garden.  And remember, holding open doors ain’t bad work either…any work He gives you is special.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, faith, God, God has a plan for you, inspirational, Jeremiah 29:11, purpose | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Still and Know that He is God

I have felt a little frustrated lately…I think I have just been tired.  When I feel frustrated I am reminded of a sermon I heard Charles Stanley preach years ago.  He said when you are frustrated you should halt.  Halt before you do something you might regret.  He went on to give an acronym for H.A.L.T. and say that we often become frustrated when we are too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely or too Tired.  When we recognize that we are in one of those conditions it is time to halt.  When I am frustrated I do my best to HALT and I also try to remember Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  It is good to remind myself that God is in control.  I can be still, relax and allow Him to minister to me, comfort me, lead me, and guide me.  There is no need for me to be frustrated; I don’t have to have all the answers.  I just have to halt and let the Lord be my Lord.

How about you?  Are you frustrated today?  Are you too hungry?  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to glorify God in our body.  That means we need to walk right and talk right and it means we need to eat right.  Some of us need to eat right – right now for the sake of our testimony.  The Snickers candy bar commercial is right…we are not ourselves when we are hungry.  You may not sound like Joe Peschi but chances are if you go around hungry long enough you won’t sound like a child of the King of Kings either.  I understand trying to drop a few pounds, my belt being on the last notch can attest to that but we have to remember that we don’t gain our weight in one day, we don’t lose it in one day either.  Be sensible about what you eat or don’t eat.  It would be a shame to lose more friends than pounds….

Are you too angry?  For me sometimes being hungry leads to being angry and the Bible says in James 1:20 “the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”  Ask the Lord to help you to deal with your anger.  Ask Him for discernment to be able to recognize situations and people that get you riled up and ask Him for wisdom to deal with those situations and people in a way that brings Him glory and honor.  You will likely find that there are simply some places you should not go and some people you rarely need to see.

Are you too lonely?  Way back in the beginning in Genesis 2:18 the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  We were created in God’s image.  Not only does that mean that we have emotions, free will and the ability to reason, but it also means that we have an innate desire for fellowship.  It is not good to be alone or to feel lonely.  Feeling lonely for an extended period of time does something to our physiology and can lead to depression.  If you feel depressed, pray and ask the Lord for relief.  And make an appointment to see your doctor.  The Lord has ordained the use of physicians.  Whether healing comes from a doctor or prayer or a combination thereof it all originates from the Great Physician.  When you pray, ask the Lord to bless you with godly companionship and fellowship. Ask Him to help you not feel lonely or to be alone.  You CAN find a friend.  You CAN find a body of believers who will welcome you.  And I know that as you pray for godly relationships to be established in your life that the Lord Himself will embrace you, comfort you and encourage you.

Are you too tired?  Here is the secret you won’t find on Google, grab a pencil.  Ready?  Get some rest!  I know, I know.   You have too much to do.  That is the way it was in Mark chapter 6.  The disciples were helping Jesus minister to the crowds and people kept coming and coming.  There was so much work to do.  Yet, in the midst of all that work to do, with so much yet to be done, Jesus tells the disciples in Mark 6:31, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)”

See, Jesus said it before Charles Stanley.  HALT!  Stop what you are doing and rest!  Everything does not depend on you.  Get to a secluded place where you can relax; a place where you can let God meet your needs and minister to you!  HALT and do the right thing so that you don’t go on in your own strength and do the wrong thing.  Take the time to simply be still and know that He is God.  He is in control and ultimately He will be exalted among the nations, He will be exalted in the earth!”

Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, eat right, faith, God, Psalm 46:10, Snickers commercial | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment