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Hey Batter, Batter . . .

It is easy to be distracted.  Some of you will begin reading this and not make it to the end because something else catches your attention.  It is as if there is someone yelling “hey batter, batter . . . swing” just to make us miss something.  What if the thing we miss is important?  What if we miss something great because we are paying attention to something that is meant to distract us?  Satan desires to keep us distracted.  He wants us to be blinded to God’s work and God’s blessings.  This has been a strategy since the Garden of Eden.  In Genesis 3 we have the first account of Satan distracting man from the work and blessings of God.

Think of all that Adam and Eve had at their disposal.  In Genesis 2:16, they are told that they can eat from every tree of the garden, except . . .  Yes, we like to focus on the except.  We mull it over in our minds and let it become the focus of our thoughts.  Do you see the strategy?  Let’s go back to chapter 2.  At this point, Adam and Eve seem fine with this exception.  After all, they have every other tree in the garden to eat from.  God’s work and blessings are abundant.  They are completely satisfied with them, but things change in chapter 3.  Here is that deceptive strategy.

The serpent (Satan) begins to distract them with what they cannot have.  That’s right . . . He yells “hey batter, batter” and they swing.  They are so distracted that they forget the abundant work and blessings they are satisfied with in chapter 2.  We don’t know how big the Garden of Eden was, but let’s speculate for a minute.  The Virginia Department of Forestry suggests that a Christmas tree farm can plant about 1,037 trees per acre of land.  So, let’s imagine that the Garden of Eden is only 2 acres.  Now, we will fill that with only 1/3 of the suggested trees.  That leaves us with about 691 trees planted in the Garden.  That means that Adam and Eve have access to 99.997% of the trees.  They are only forbidden from eating 0.003%.  What a significant difference!

It seems illogical to be enticed by that little number, but that is the way Satan works.  There are times you may be distracted by the 0.003%, but don’t swing.  Don’t let Satan make you miss recognizing the abundant work and blessing of God in your life.  Don’t miss out on God’s goodness because you are focusing on what you do not have; you might not have it for a reason.

This post was published in The Monitor of Naples, Texas on 11/24/16.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Genesis, Monitor Articles, Uncategorized

 

It’s not about me . . .

In 2014, Burger King replaced it’s 40-year-old slogan, “Have it your way.”  I can still hear the song in my head after being bombarded with it through advertisements, “your way, right away at Burger King now.”  If we think about this for just a minute, doesn’t it sound self-centered?  This slogan worked.  Why?  Because it tapped into a natural tendency of all of us, a desire to get what we want, when we want it.  It reveals a consumer driven mentality that often warps our view of how things should be.

You choose the restaurants you eat at based on this tendency.  Do they have what you want?  Will they provide what you want in a way that satisfies?  If either one of these is not met, we simply refrain from going there again.  I am sad to say this mentality effects the church more that we would like to admit.

I remember sitting down with a couple about 9 years ago.  They were upset with their church.  It didn’t have the youth program they were looking for, the music was not exciting enough, and they wanted something better for their kids.  Does this sound familiar to any of you?  I have to say, I hear something similar to this quite often.  After visiting with them, I encouraged them to go to their church and start getting involved.  Instead of being disappointed with what the church did not offer, serve the churches need by filling that position.  They did, and it turned out to be a very fruitful time for them.

1 Peter 4:10 tells us “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. . .”  As a church member, we are called to serve each other.  This includes the local church context.  Let’s take this a step further.  It means that our primary purpose in the church is to serve, not necessarily to be served. When you are a member of the church, it is not about what the church offers you, but what you have to offer the church.

Maybe you are disappointed in the church and maybe you think there are ministries the church should be doing.  There may be a ministry at the church that you think is inadequate.  Instead of leaving or looking for something else, ask yourself this question, “Am I willing to contribute my time and talents to make it better?”  If you are not, there is a deeper spiritual problem.  Church is not about having things your way, it is about serving God with everything you have and I believe you will be served as you begin to serve.

This post was published in The Monitor of Naples, Texas on 9/15/16.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2016 in 1 Peter, Monitor Articles

 

Work with Passion

As I traveled last week, I heard an interview on the radio.  During the interview the interviewee expressed that she wanted to encourage people to follow their passion.  Yet, in the same interview she admitted that some people have trouble finding their passion and for those that do, they rarely get the break they need to make a living in that particular venue.  When it comes to a career there is an idea that permeates through our society that says to find your passion and then pursue it.  I put before you that this is not necessarily a biblical view.  Instead, we should work in the opportunities we are given with passion.

First, we do this because glorifying God is our primary passion and desire.  Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30).  Worldly passions change.  Think back over your life and the significant ages: 5, 10, 16, 21, 30 . . .  Did the things you were passionate about change?  Probably.  Our heart is fickle and the things we enjoy doing may change several times through life.  Temporary things can only bring temporary satisfaction and fulfillment.  When we focus our passion and desires on God, we find that he is satisfying because he is constant and eternal.

Second, Scripture tells us “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. . .”  Behind this verse is an idea that God gives us a portion in life with which we should be satisfied.  Therefore, if our passion is bringing glory to God, we should work at any opportunity we are given with passion.  Why?  It is a moment to bring him glory and in doing so we will find satisfaction and fulfillment.

I do not know who you are or your circumstances.  You may be looking for a job or you may be dissatisfied with your current employment.  You may be tired, frustrated, disgruntled, or all of the above.  Are you working as though you are doing it for God?  Do not seek a worldly passion, be passionate about where God is using you in the world.  If you are looking for a job, find one and work at it passionately as though you are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

My prayer is that we would a people passionate about serving the Lord where we are placed.  As believers, he is our passion so no matter where he places us, we can find satisfaction and fulfillment.

 

16,000 Words

The University of Arizona found that the average person speaks about 16,000 words a day.  Using their results, we could assume that the average person speaks 5,632,000 words a year.  That makes for a long conversation.  Think of it this way.  This article averages 500 words a week.  That means that over the course of a year, if all words were recorded, it would be enough to fill this column 11,264 times.

We use a lot of words.  Some are large and some are small.   We know people that sound like human dictionaries and we know people that are professionals when it comes to expletives.  Language is a powerful tool, given by God.  It has the ability to cheer our hearts, make us weep, and alter the atmosphere around us.  Even though the number of words we speak is vast, they are still numbered.  At the end of the day, you will have spoken a certain number of words.  There comes a point when words cannot be added to the day, and there is never a point when you can take back the words you have said.  Knowing this, it would be silly for us not to use our words wisely.

Jesus told his disciples that the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart (Mt. 12:34).  We can probably do an adequate job of assessing our hearts by the words that come out of our mouths.  I am not suggesting you analyze the words that come from others.  I encourage you to evaluate your own words.  How do you use them?  Do you spend your time spreading gossip? How do you speak of others?  Do your words build up or tear down?  These are important questions to ask, especially in the midst of a conversation.  However, this is by no means an exhaustive list.

So, is there a way for us to evaluate our words without listing questions?  After all, we only have 16,000 words a day.  Let’s not spend them all asking questions about our speech.  Psalm 19:14 is a petition for God’s help and an expression of desire, “Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”  I do not mean to over simplify, but of the 16,000 words we speak each day, how many of them are used to tell people about God and what he has done?  Are they pleasing and acceptable to him?  Remember language is a gift from God.  Therefore, it is meant to be used for his glory.  How will you use your words today?

This post was published in The Monitor of Naples, Texas on 9/8/2016.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2016 in Matthew, Monitor Articles, Psalms

 

The Deception of Peace

“I have peace about my decision.”  Have you ever heard this statement?  We often treat peace is a sign of God’s approval and blessing.  Sometimes this statement is used in regards to a decision they are making and sometimes it is used in regards to a circumstance in their life.  Honestly, in either case, God can give you peace when you are walking in his will, but I put before you that Satan can imitate anything that God can do.  Therefore, we ought to not trust our feelings, even a peaceful one.  Let me illustrate this with two men in the Bible.

First, there is Jonah.  You know the story; Jonah runs from God, boards a ship, gets swallowed by a fish, gets vomited out of a fish, and then goes to give God’s message to the Ninevites.  Second, there is Jesus, God Incarnate.  He came to earth and brought salvation through his death, burial, and resurrection.  Both of these men had times of peace and times of turmoil, but let’s look at a similar situation in each of their lives.

For this we turn to Jonah 1:5 and Matthew 8:24.  There are several similarities in these two accounts.  First, both Jesus and Jonah were on boats with seasoned seamen.  Second, they were both asleep.  Finally, they were both asleep during a storm that caused the seasoned seamen to worry.  In both of these situations, Jesus and Jonah seem to be at peace with their situation.  In fact, Scripture tells us Jonah was “fast asleep.”

Here’s the problem.  In the middle of the storm, both men were peacefully sleeping.  Jesus was walking in obedience to God, but Jonah was not.  However, Jonah was still at peace enough to be “fast asleep.”  Peace is not always a sign of obedience and God’s approval.  So, if we can’t trust our feeling of peace, then what do we trust?

First, we look to Scripture.  We must see if our decision is in line with what God has told us in the Bible.  This is not a one-time visit for guidance.  We must immerse ourselves in daily pursuit of God’s voice through his Word.  Second, we look to the council of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We allow them to challenge our thoughts and hone our understanding with their experience.  Fellowship with one another is a great gift.  However, I give you one warning, never consult man before consulting God.

Don’t use your feelings and don’t assume that your feelings are a sign from God.  Use Scripture and fellowship with other believers to help guide you.

This post was published in The Monitor of Naples, Texas on 9/1/16.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2016 in Jonah, Matthew, Monitor Articles

 

Back to Church!

School is underway, along with afterschool practices and homework.  The reestablished routine is comfortable to some, yet confining to others.  With the beginning of school comes a great opportunity to start going back to church.  Your summer may have been filled with travel and other plans that took you away from Sunday worship or it may have been a while since you darkened the doorway of your local church.  Some may be afraid the roof will cave in if they go to church (I assure you, do not worry about this, the church has insurance!)  I want to encourage you, as the kids and teachers go back to school, to go back to church.

People give many reasons for not going to church, and I want to look at two of them.   First, they see no need for the church.  They can have a relationship with God, through Christ and do not need the “organization.”  Second, they feel the church is full of hypocrites or they just don’t like the people that attend.  Let me tell you, if you hold either of these positions, you are correct.

First, it is possible for you to have a relationship with God, through Christ and not attend church.  However, I want to let you know two things.  1) You are missing out on a crucial part of God’s purpose for our life and 2) there is a level of intimacy with God that you are not experiencing.  You see, we were created as communal people.  God said in Genesis 2:18 that it was not good for man to be alone.  Furthermore, we were redeemed by Christ to be a part of the church, the body of Christ (Take a moment tonight and read the book of Ephesians).  We were created and redeemed for fellowship with other believers and the primary place we experience this is as we worship together.

Second, the church is not perfect, but honestly, neither are you.  Sure, there may be people at a church that you don’t like, but go anyway.  Maybe you have a legitimate reason for no longer attending your former church.  If that is the case find another church.  You won’t find a perfect church, but you will find one that needs you just as much as you need them (which is more than you both realize).    We need each other to grow, that is why God tells us in Hebrews 10:25 that believers should not neglect the meeting of the body.  So, I encourage you to use the start of the school year to go back to church.

This post was published in The Monitor of Naples, Texas on 8/25/16.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2016 in Ephesians, Hebrews, Monitor Articles

 

Lifelong Learning

In just a few sort days, summer vacation will be over.  The kids played all summer, some of them worked hard, and others traveled to camps and on vacation.  For the first time in two months, the teenagers will wake up before lunch and children that arose early all summer will find it difficult to wake up for school.  As school starts, we encourage them and help them do their best.  Why do we do this?  Why do we desire our kids to learn and why do we urge them to do their best?  I want to give you two reasons for both students and teacher.  First, learning is a gift from God.  Second, everything we do, we do it for the glory of God.

I know there are some that view learning as torture, but it is a gift.  Even Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52).  He learned to walk, learned to speak, and learned skills.  In John 7:15, the Jews wondered how it was possible that Jesus could teach the things he did because they thought he was “unlearned.”  Your mind was designed to think and be used for the glory of God.  In Philippians 4:8 we are told to think about things that are worthy.  Thinking implies learning.  It is something we were created to do.  Yes, these thoughts are to be centered on God, but they also include learning about God’s creation, communicating with each other, creative thinking, problem solving skills, and hard work.  Learning is important and we encourage our children to do so, but it should also be an activity that we participate in as adults.  We should all be learning.

Second, whether students or teachers this task is given to us to glorify God.  This was the message of Paul in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  When we teach and when we learn, it is a moment given to us by God to do for his glory.  That means if you teach, teach because you are representing God as you work.  If you are the student, learn and do good work because you are representing God in the process.  He deserves our best; therefore, we give him our best.

I encourage you as students, teachers, and lifelong teacher-students to develop the mind you were given by God and to do so for his glory.  Do your best for his namesake.  It is a gift and a task to which he called you.

This post was published in The Monitor of Naples, Texas on 8/18/16.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized