Scary Stuff

Something scary is happening to Christians in this world….but honestly there are two things that are happening…and each are as scary as the other.

First…Christians around the world are dying for their faith.  That isn’t the scary part, the part that is scary is that they are dying in quite inhuman ways, being persecuted for their faith, because they are taking a stand for the Gospel which saved them.

What is scary is that the evil in the world can stoop to such levels of murder, but those who are solid in their faith and face the persecution and eventual martyrdom will have their revenge (see Revelation) one day when God casts judgment upon the earth.

The second, and possibly scarier, happening among Christians is the fact that the Gospel has become so clouded by those who proclaim the faith in many areas that it is quite hard to tell “Christians” from the world around them. We have begun to adapt to the things of the world, and rather than correcting someone in their sin, we join them and claim Grace as the victory as to why we can live as we wish…

This is not true Christianity…it is living a lie!  This might hurt to hear, but let me just lay it out…and by no means am I claiming to be perfect or saying I have it all figured out, but Paul tells us in the scripture that we should not go on willingly sinning because of Grace, but that we should be set apart and holy…NEWSFLASH: we cannot be set apart and holy while living in sin….So, instead, we should present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing!

We are by nature sinners, that is true, but when we have truly given ourselves over to the Spirit of God as our guide, we will find that He lives through us…we no longer desire to live in the sin that entangles us…Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This doesn’t mean he will give us what we wish for….if we delight in Him, He will give us the actual desire in our hearts…the desire to seek and serve Him…the desire to follow His word and way…He will give us a desire for Him….

Seek Him today!

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:21

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The Eye of the Storm

Over the past few weeks, Hurricanes have been the topic of conversation…and I for one, love to watch the Weather Channel and research how storms work. In fact, one of my favorite things is watching Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel, because his excitement for what he does coupled with his knowledge of the workings of the storm is quite entertaining.

I remember watching once when Cantore was broadcasting from a storm, and as the storm made landfall he began to talk (as they always do) about the eye of the storm that was to come.  In an effort to keep it short, I won’t bore you with all the details of how the storm works, but I will say that it is intriguing to think about how it works when you get to the center of the storm.

As the hurricane approaches land, the winds become more intense, the waves get bigger and stronger, and the storms can at times become unbearable.  The intensity and destructive capabilities increase the closer you get to the center, or the eye of the storm…but one of the most interesting and intriguing facts is this…that the eye is calm…the eye can be open to the sky above, there is a peace and an unexplainable nature of the eye of a storm that truly is captivating to me.

This is best explained in saying that I liken life to a hurricane….A battle day in and day out, and the closer we get to the eye, the battles get more intense, more destructive in nature, and things can seem to be out of hand….but the eye of the storm is God. If we can just persevere through the storm, we will find rest in the shelter of God at the center of it all.  A hurricane becomes the perfect allegory for life.  If we can make God the center, and find our rest in him, the storms may rage all around us…but we have peace and calm in the Eye of the storm.

God has shown us throughout scripture that He controls the things of life, be it weather or just life’s circumstances, they are all under His control.  The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 46:10, “Be Still and know that I am God,” and we are reminded by Jesus in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  Both of these verses remind us to be still and recognize God at work around us, because there will be storms…there will be trials and tribulations of all types, but we can rejoice in the difficulties because Christ has overcome the world through His sacrifice for us.

Rest in Him today!  Find joy…true joy…in Christ if you want to find the calm that is only found in the Eye of the Storm.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’” – Psalm 91:1-2

Get out of the Boat

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a key factor in every Christian’s life. It’s something that we should all look at when our lives come down to it. When you look at the story in scripture of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6), there is a huge part of the story that sometimes gets left out in the story. It is the story of the disciples.

First – there is fear. The disciples were in a boat, rowing against the wind, and trying to reach the other shore. Jesus had stayed behind to pray, and was simply making his way from one side to the other. When the disciples saw him they became afraid. They thought it was a ghost, because in their minds it was not comprehendible that a man could be walking on the water. The irony in it all is the fact that just as we do, they cried out for Jesus. He was on His way to meet them on the other side, but when He heard them He stopped. Many times in our lives we are faced with fears and uncertainties that cause us to not see that the Lord is there with us, but instead we assume it is something which means us harm.

This is where the story of the disciples becomes what we overlook. Many times we see the story of the faith of Peter, we hear time and time again about how He had the faith to step out – and I don’t want to downplay that at all – because it is important. Peter called out and told Jesus to call Him and then stepped out on the water. Peter did what no other man has ever been able to do, he walked on water; but there is more to the story than that. The story of the other disciples who stayed put – the ones who were too scared to see the opportunity at hand. Peter may not have made it to Jesus, but he had the faith to step out and try to get to where His Lord was, not wait on Jesus to come to him.

Many times in our lives we overlook the opportunities we have because we are too scared to ‘get out of the boat’. We become content in our lives to wait on what the Lord is going to do for us, and not pursue Him in the way that we should. We should pursue with full abandon, forgetting what is going on in our lives and pushing forward toward Jesus…because as Peter knew, the shelter that He can provide is much greater than what we are facing. But where Peter failed we can also learn a lesson of keeping our focus on Jesus – because the wind will blow, but with our eyes on Jesus we can make the path all the way to Him.

We don’t need to be content sitting back and waiting on the Lord to work in our lives, becoming gravely disappointed with the circumstances and asking God why something isn’t happening. We need to step out on faith, keep our eyes on Jesus, and go to where He is. Things happen a lot quicker when we are willing to meet Him rather than wait. So, I encourage you to get out of the boat, and trust that you will be able to face the waves, knowing that with your eyes on Jesus, nothing is impossible.

Stay Tuned

We have all had a friend who impacted our lives in a way that we can’t quite understand…

We have all had someone who could say just the right thing, at the right moment, and at least for that moment restore some sanity to an insane situation…to help you keep focus on what is bigger in the circumstance.

One of those friends for me passed away this past week, and one of the statements that always encouraged me was two simple words…the words, “Stay Tuned.”

No matter the circumstance, no matter what God was trying to do in the situation, the encouragement was simple…Stay tuned to what the Spirit is saying…Stay tuned because God has something great in store….Stay tuned, because tuned in is much better than tuned out…

It encompassed so many different meanings, and being that I work in Radio each day, it made sense to me…because in radio, you have to be tuned in to a station to get the clear message that is being broadcast…

It is the same way in life.  For us to clearly receive the message that God is trying to reveal to us, we must stay tuned to the Spirit and listen closely to what is being said or shown.  Staying tuned is how Mary was able to hear that she was to be the mother of the Savior…staying tuned is how Joseph heard that Mary had been faithful to God and to him…staying tuned is how Jesus carried out His earthly ministry and how He encouraged the disciples to live their lives.

In the radio business you invite listeners to “stay tuned” for something that is coming up…and in the same way, God is giving us the same invitation through the Holy Spirit.

God is always broadcasting through the Spirit, but we must stay tuned to hear the message…there are many things that attempt to pull us away from being tuned in, but God is saying to each of us today…”Stay tuned…there’s something great coming.”

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:25-27, ESV)

Jesus told the disciples to “Stay Tuned” because a Helper was on the way…and we have the same promise…so today…STAY TUNED.

You(th) Can Do It

The Book of Daniel has been on my mind over the past few weeks, and it has really got me thinking about the youth of this nation – most specifically the county and community in which we live.  Daniel was a spiritual rebel so to speak…as were his friends – Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (better known to many of you as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).

Their story is key to the lives of many today…especially youth in today’s world…but a message we can all take to heart in our lives.  Daniel and his friends were teenagers…they were youth struggling to face the battles that the world wanted to throw at them…they struggled in a land where it seemed that the Government wanted nothing to do with the God that they had been raised to serve – sound familiar?

There are a few things we see in the life of Daniel that we can take courage in knowing and applying to our lives.  First – A group of four teens were able to change the mind of a King who wanted control over every aspect of the lives of his subjects.  The King wanted to make them do exactly what he wanted done…right down to their meals.  The “Government” thought they knew better on what would be healthy, what would be good for the people…what would be proper in terms of acceptance.

This is something each of us as Christians are going through today in a world where acceptance is being preached on every street corner…does it mean we aren’t tolerant?  By no means!  What it does mean is that we should do as Daniel and his friends…stand up for our beliefs.  Daniel went to the King’s men and simply asked for permission to do what the Lord would have him to do…and he started small…with the diet.  The King thought he knew what the people should eat, he told them what was good for them; but Daniel knew different and simply asked for the opportunity to go against the flow, to show the power of God.  After 10 days, he and his friends were healthier, they were in better shape…basically they only wanted to present proof that God would work in their lives – God took care of the rest.

Second – Daniel shared his knowledge.  The King was having dreams…and his men couldn’t explain what they meant…but Daniel could.  Daniel was given wisdom from God to discern the meaning of the King’s dreams…dreams that the King’s ‘magic’ couldn’t touch.

Each of us has been called daily to share our knowledge with a world searching for answers.  It might not be dreams, but there are questions that only our knowledge of God and His ways can answer.  There are answers to situations that the unchurched, non-believer goes through in which they can’t explain…and their way of answering – to turn to drugs and alcohol.  They don’t find answers, they just forget for a while…and when it comes back up…it hits them harder the second and third time around; which at that point they have more than just the original problem to worry about.

Share what you know in everyday situations…whether in word, or in action…prove to the world the existence of our God…don’t be afraid to share the love of Christ with anyone you come in contact with.

Third – Dare to be different.  It goes along with the other two, but we must dare to be different than the world around us.  Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it – that is how we end up holding ourselves back from the blessings that God has for us.  Being different is what helps us to get through the tough times with a little extra help; help that the world doesn’t have – The Holy Spirit.

Being different is ok…contrary to popular worldly belief…being different is what sets a Christian apart from those around them.  Lives may look similar, but the difference is the heart.  Look inside your heart and trust in the Lord for deliverance from anything the world will throw at you…and I mean ANYTHING!

This brings us to the final and probably the greatest example from the lives of Daniel and his friends that will guide us in our steps…Deliverance.  Look at where being different got them…in trouble with those around them.  Does that mean we should use caution?  No…they didn’t, and because of their steadfastness in faith, they were delivered from certain death.  We can avoid death in one of two ways:  One – avoid controversy.  We can do as many of the Israelites did and cower behind the fear that the world will throw us to the lions, or throw us in the fire…or Two – dive in and hold on.

Daniel and his friends opted for the second of the two…it wasn’t easy, because death was the promised outcome…but God is stronger than the world would like you to believe.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood firm…and faced the fiery furnace.  They were thrown in, they were given no chance…but when the fire was at its hottest…they were not alone.  Because of their willingness to stand strong they had company from “the Son of God”(Daniel 3:25).

What happens next is something that would happen if we would all stand firm…conversion.  King Nebuchadnezzer’s life was changed because these 3 teens were willing to stand for their God.  He declared that anyone who did something against the God of these three would face death…because he realized the power of God for those who believe in him.

Daniel accomplished the same when he was thrown into the lion’s den…his faith caused the taming of the lions so much so that it made a difference when they opened the pit.  The King had not wanted to throw Daniel in, but he did because of pressure…not unlike pressures we feel daily in this world; but the result…another decree declaring the power of God.

Let’s change the world…youth can do it…and so can adults.  We are all children of the same God Daniel served.  Let’s turn the world on its ear and evoke the same response as that found in Daniel 6:26-27:

“For he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”

— Daniel 6:26-27 (ESV)

Shelter

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2, ESV

When we think of shelter, many of us tend to lean toward protection and safety. Shelter is something that many of us value and that we all want to find.  We think of Shelter in times of storm and trouble; we think of shelter in times of tribulation.

When we think of trials and tribulation, storms and trouble, we tend to think about events that can tear apart our lives at the seams.  It doesn’t always have to be a literal storm we are facing; sometimes it may be the storms of life that are bringing us down.  It could be that diagnosis that we unexpectedly got from the doctor that has left us questioning; it may be that fire that took away all our possessions, or maybe even the traffic accident that nearly took our life from us, or the loss of a dear loved one and the uncertainty of where things will go from there.

Whatever the trial we face, God has promised us that the outcome will be under his control, all we must do is trust in Him completely.  Why do we find it difficult to trust in the Lord with our circumstances?  Why do we find difficulty in turning over things to God?  Why do we wait so late in our situation to trust in Him when He has promised us safety and shelter?

Look back at the verse I opened this with, “He who dwells in the shelter…”  We are protected when we spend our lives within the Shelter of God.  But what does this mean?  How do we dwell in that shelter?  We devote ourselves to His word and make it a vital part of our lives.  If we embrace his word and allow it to infiltrate our everyday lives we can see this played out each day.

This doesn’t mean that we will always stay clear of the storms, but it does mean that we will praise Him through the storms and that we will have shelter during the storm.  He is our ever-present shelter in the time of storm.  He is our protector, defender, savior and friend.  He is our help.  He is our Father, who loves us and wants nothing but the best for us.

Are you facing a storm today?  Seek Shelter from the Almighty and trust in His ways.  Remember that He controls the storm, He walks on the waves, and just the sound of His voice will quiet the storm and provide calm.

“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:24-27, ESV

This man is Jesus, let Him calm your storm.

Missing Mayberry

I have been thinking lately about the simple life of Mayberry that we see on the Andy Griffith Show.  What happened to the days where we could be a community, where folks trusted one another, where people enjoyed a good church service and a get together where they weren’t afraid to sing praises to our Lord. What happened to these days?

We live in a time of corruption; we live in a time where folks have turned their back on the old way of life.  Many seem to have forgotten where we come from.

Looking back to Mayberry, I think we can all see a way that life could be simpler for us.  We must learn to trust the Lord and trust one another again.  The problem is, no one cares these days if they are trustworthy.  People are too busy trying to look out for themselves and forget to look out for one another.  We forget that we are to be praying for one another.  We forget that we are to be showing the love of Christ to others and we forget that we need to band together as a community.

Ephesians 5:15-21 tells us about what has happened to our way of thinking:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

We must watch out for our steps, we must guard our actions, but we must also watch out for each other today.  We can’t be afraid to allow God to work in our lives.  We don’t have to miss Mayberry today, we can pray and get ourselves back to those days.  There is nothing wrong with the old way of life. What is wrong is our perspective.

I encourage you today to think back to how things used to be and see what changed.  I guarantee you that you are the one who has changed, the Savior is the same yesterday, today and forever.