I have to tell ya

I love various types of music.  From time to time I like to listen to different types of Spanish music.  I like salsa, merengue and other genres.  One of my favorite songs of all time though is a Cuban folk song called Guantanmera.  Today on the way home I listened to that song.  There is a verse in the song that says, “Antes de morirme quiero, echar mis versos del alma…”  Roughly translated this man is saying that before he dies, he must share these verses, these words from his soul.  Every time I listen to that song, as I sing along in my car or maybe on the treadmill I think of the way that God has blessed me.  I think of the words deep in my heart that I long to say, want to say, and need to say to my wife, my kids, my grandkids and those I love.  Oh my, the Lord has been good to me.  As I listen to that song, I also think of the words that I want to share with others about how good and gracious and merciful God is.   I think of how God demonstrated His love for me in that while I was yet an unrepentant sinner Christ died for me.  The Lord has been so good to me, given me eternal life, blessed me with abundant life, that I just have to tell somebody.  John said it like this in 1 John 1:1-3 “ What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life… we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Yes, I recognize that the Lord has blessed me in ways that I do not deserve; not because of who I am but because of who He is.  He has blessed me with eternal life.  He has blessed me with a wonderful family and fantastic friends and I cannot and should not keep such news to myself.  “Antes de morirme quiero, echar mis versos del alma…”

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You Can Count On The Lord for Wisdom

I knew I was in for a treat when my granddaughter Avery said, “Pawpaw, let me tell you something.”  This is the same phrase she has used to initiate conversations about what it is like to be a big sister, what it means to be in love and what the consequences would be if I cheated at cards.  My 4 year old philosopher had my attention.  “One plus one is two.  Two plus one is three.  Two plus two is four and four plus four is…it’s…wait a minute.”  She stopped long enough to look at her hands and count silently then she continued, “Four plus four is eight!  See Pawpaw, if you don’t remember, you can just count your fingers!  There is always a way to figure it out.”

I love that girl.  She’s right.  Not just on the “four plus four” thing (I checked) but she is right about problems in general.  There is always a way to figure it out.  Sometimes we encounter problems that stump us.  We don’t know what to do and it just seems like we will never be able to find an answer.  The Bible lets us know that there is always a way to figure things out.   We are told in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  No matter what difficulty we encounter, no matter trouble befalls us there is always a means to discerning the answer.  The Lord desires to help us sort out our messy situations and work through the difficult problems and scenarios in our lives.  There is always a way to figure things out; there is a means of solving your problems.  Maybe you are having difficulty making a tough decision today.  Maybe there is something that you just can’t quite figure out.  Turn to the Lord, seek His help, and ask for His counsel.  As Avery would say, “Let me tell you something”…you can count on the Lord.   He will help you.  He will give you wisdom.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

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Being Pruned for New Growth

I have some type of house plant on the desk at my office which I guess really makes it an “office plant.” It was given to me a few months ago by the person who occupied the desk before I did.  It looks like a Caladium except it is greener and thicker.  The truth is that ever since it was placed in my care I have been struggling to take care of it.  Though it did not start off in the best of health, and has not had the best of care, things are starting to get better.  With the help of my cubicle neighbor Allison I think I have finally discovered just how often it should be watered.  I have also discovered how often it should not be watered; which is to say that my neighbor Allison has helped me soak up the extra water out from under my printer after I surpassed the appropriate “watering threshold” on a couple of occasions.  I am a slow learner, what can I say.  Despite my best efforts and a little plant food, my plant still has not grown much or been as healthy as I would expect.  Last week though, things took a turn for the better.  I pruned some unhealthy and dead leaves just so that it would not look so bad.  Soon thereafter I was surprised by some new growth.  A whole new bright green stem started to pop up.  Within two days there was another nice shiny green leaf!  I was so excited ran to go get some more water – until Allison stopped me and reminded me it was not watering day.

As I reflected on the new growth that God provided in that plant, I thought of some great words in John chapter 15.   Jesus is speaking of how we exist to glorify God.  He says that we can only do that through a relationship with the Father through Him.  In John 15:5 He says “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Sometimes our lives are like that poor little house plant on my desk.  We want to grow, we want to bear much fruit, and we want to do great things!  We try watering, we try plant food, we try so many things but we don’t get the results we want – still our life just doesn’t look right.  Very little happens.  We still don’t seem to be healthy; we still don’t seem to be bearing fruit.  The Bible is true; it is spot on.  Apart from Christ you cannot really do anything; at least not anything that really matters in the grand scheme of things.  First, we need to ask ourselves if we have the right relationship with the Lord.  Have we been reconciled to God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ?  Have we received Christ as Lord and been forgiven of our sins?  Are we abiding in Him?  That is the relationship we need to be able to do anything significant, anything of eternal, lasting value.

Even, if we are confident of our relationship with Christ, we can still experience times when our lives don’t look right.   There can still be times when we struggle to grow and bear fruit.  It is in those times that we need to ask if there are some unhealthy or dead areas that need to be removed from our lives.  Are there some things that need to be avoided, let go or tossed aside?  When we prune those areas we make room for new growth.  Please understand, if you don’t prune it the Lord will.  In the beginning of that same chapter Jesus says in John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

Yes, the Lord loves to see us grow.  For that reason He will prune the branches so that new growth can occur.  Sometimes pruning can be a painful process.  But even if it is painful, the new growth that follows is always a blessing.  Bearing fruit is also a blessing for it brings glory to the Father.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

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Be Courageous – The Lord is with you

I was blessed to spend some quality time with the granddaughters the other day and Avery the 4 year old informed me that next week she was going to Disney World.  This was news to me and to others in the family too, I’m sure.  “Who’s taking you?” I asked.  “You and my daddy.  And while I’m there I’m gonna ride a HUGE roller coaster as big as a mountain.”  “Won’t you be scared to ride a roller coaster as big as a mountain?” I inquired.  Avery replied without a second thought, “I won’t be scared because my daddy is gonna ride it with me.”

I was not surprised by her answer.  Just a few Saturdays ago when I was surfing channels the rodeo was on and Avery saw some cowboys riding bulls.  She declared, “I could do that…. if I was sitting in my daddy’s lap.”  I love that girl.  And I love the faith and trust she places in her earthly father.  As a Christian I pray that I may express and exhibit the same faith and trust in my heavenly Father.  Sometimes life does get a little crazy.  Sometimes we feel like we are on a roller coaster as HUGE as a mountain or we feel like we have been asked to take our turn riding or facing a raging bull.  Certain situations can be scary and intimidating.  As Christians we must know that we never face these situations alone or in our own power.  The Bible reminds us of God’s presence and His power in several passages.  I am particularly fond of this verse in Joshua 1: 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Today you may face the roller coaster of a relationship that needs some stability.  You may face the need to begin a new job, a new ministry or need to simply continue on in a task that has been very difficult and the thought scares you just as much as a thought of riding a bull scares this 50 year old man who bruises very easily.  Whatever path is set before you, remember that you do not walk it alone.  You do not walk it in your own power.  Be strong!  Be courageous!  Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

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Mission Minded – It only takes a few funerals

I have been praying about and researching the topic of church revitalization a great deal in recent months.  There is a great need for revival in our country and there should be a sense of urgency and spiritual unrest felt by all Christians to reach out to this present generation and introduce them to our glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is sad that at a time such as this that so great a number of churches in our country are on the decline.  Many are closing their doors or soon will be in the upcoming years unless a change takes place.  As I talked to several pastors about the topic of church revitalization this year, many have made a similar statement, “There is nothing wrong with some churches that a few funerals wouldn’t fix.”  Wow.  What a sad commentary.

This sentiment comes from those who have witnessed or experienced firsthand attitudes and behaviors that fit in with what Jesus was describing in Mark 7:7-8 “BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ 8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

Many of our churches have become irrelevant to the current generation because they have embraced their own ways rather than the Lord’s will.  They have failed to go out and seek after the lost in their community.  They have failed to go out “into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that the Lord’s house may be filled.”  Some churches have failed to find ways to engage and involve new generations with the Gospel.  They are unwilling and unbending when it comes to trying to relate to and be relevant to generations that did not grow up in church and who did not grow up singing the same songs as we did.  From what I have been told, some churches would not even consider contemporary songs even if it would save a soul.  That is even sadder than the statement about “a few funerals.”  After all, we are singing about the same Jesus.

Is there anything wrong with tradition?  In and of itself, no.  But as Christ pointed out, we have to be careful not to neglect His commands as we still cherish our traditions.  Anytime we do what we want to do rather than what God wants us to do we are engaging in sin.  Anything that we give priority over the Lord and His will becomes an idol.  It can be easy for us to place our emphasis on the order of our worship rather than the object of our worship.  It can be easy for us to place our emphasis on the kind of our music rather than the King of our music.  We must learn to become mission minded Christians rather than preference minded Christians.  We must place the mission of the Church over and above our preferences about the church.  I am sure that when Jesus jumped in Simon’s boat and pushed out from the shore to preach to the crowd that some muttered to themselves, “That is not how you teach God’s word.”  Oh, they were wrong.  There was nothing wrong with His means or His method.  The Lord simply desired to do a new thing and reach more people with His word.

When I hear the statement, “There is nothing wrong with some churches that a few funerals wouldn’t fix” I have to agree.  As Christians, we need to die to self.  We need to need to deny our desires and preferences and seek the desires and preferences of the Lord.  We need to pray for the churches and pastors in this country and around the world.  We need to be mission minded and seek and serve our Lord.  To Him be the glory and honor forever and ever, amen.   Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

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Keeping Promises

There is a story told of three little girls who are playing one afternoon after school at one of their homes and decided to see which one had the most money. The first little girl counted thirteen pennies and the second counted fourteen pennies. The last little girl began to count and she had only fourteen pennies like the second, but she declared to the others that she had fifteen. The other two girls argued with her over the count and made her count again. Sure enough, there were only fourteen but she insisted she had fifteen. Finally, they asked, “How can you say fifteen when you only have fourteen?” The girl looked her friends in the eyes and said, “My father promised me another penny when he comes home from work today. And whenever my father makes a promise to me, it’s good.” To this little girl the penny was in hand.

Oh dear friend, you should have the same assurance as that little girl. The things our Heavenly Father has promised, He will do. The things He has said He will provide will be provided. The hope and help He promises to you is always readily available. His promises are good. Discover those promises, learn about all that offers and promises to you. Eternal life, abundant life and so much more are promised to those who come to our Heavenly Father through a life saving relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “…the promises of God are Yes and Amen!” Don’t ever doubt the faithfulness of our Lord. You can and should place your trust in Him.

“Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt assail, By the living word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God. Standing on the promises I cannot fail, listening every moment to the Spirits call, Resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God.”

 

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Grow in Grace and Knowledge

The Girls July 2013 The granddaughters came over the other day and we spent the afternoon doing the usual, playing hide and seek, singing songs and coloring and drawing.  While we were drawing I noticed that Haley who is two and a half years old drew a picture of some rainbows and some flowers.  This is the first time I have ever seen her draw those things.  When I commented on her lovely drawing, her older sister Avery who is four and a half let me know that she had taught Haley how to draw those rainbows and flowers.  I told Avery that I was very proud of her for helping her younger sister learn about new things.  In just the past month alone Avery has helped Haley with her numbers, her ABC’s, and helped her learn not to be afraid of the big slide at Jumpy Place.  She has even helped her to learn a new song called “Jesus is my best friend.”  While we talked about all the good things her little sister is learning, Avery pointed out that Haley still needs to work on not grabbing the purple marker when Avery is trying to use it.  I encouraged Avery to be patient with her little sister.

It is beautiful to see the giving and receiving of knowledge and the growth going that is taking place in both of them.  Those same characteristics should be present in the lives of the followers of Christ.  We should be willing to share what we know with others and we should be eager to learn from “those who know already the ropes.”  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” and in Titus chapter 2 he speaks about younger Christians being mentored by the more mature saints of God.  Not only does this take patience on behalf of those teaching and sharing but it takes humility on behalf of those receiving.  It can be a little difficult sometimes to admit that we don’t know everything or that we need to learn from someone else.  We should never forget that all of us are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).”   We should never be so proud as to deny that all of us at times struggle with taking the purple markers when it’s not our turn to use them.  All of us have things that we can learn; all of us are students in some respect.

I think the reason that the learning is going so well between my granddaughters is because of the great love they have for one another.  Though there are times when they fuss and fight like any 2 year old and 4 year old sisters, their love for one another always prevails.  It should be that way for brothers and sisters in Christ.  The only way each of us will really grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is if we work together, help one another and allow a godly love for one another to prevail.  As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another.”  I pray that you may have a good week.  If you don’t have a mentor in the faith, ask the Lord to lead you to one.  And ask the Lord to help you be one.  Go forth and love one another; be gracious to one another.  Learn something new this week.  Teach somebody else to draw rainbows and butterflies.   Be patient as you learn and teach.  And above all things, grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

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