Thursday, May 28, 2009


"But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of His power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear Him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer." Luke 5:15,16 NLT

Jesus' ministry had really taken off. He faced the demands and pressures of ministry. What did He do as the demands mounted? He withdrew. He withdrew to places of solitude. Places of alone time to pray with His heavenly father.

In His time of prayer, our Lord found strength, direction, restoration, peace, and blessing in the sweet presence of God.

We face many demands in our lives. The pressures around us can consume our strength and our joy. I was convicted to ask myself, where do I withdraw to? Where do I go to find restoration, strength, direction, and even victory in the battles of life?

Too often we withdraw into ourselves, our addictions, lusts, depression, anything but solitude and prayer.

If the Lord of all life had to make time to be alone with His heavenly father, shouldn't we? What makes us think that we can handle this world on our own strength?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Count

"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God
my Savior,
for He has been mindful
of the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed"
Luke 1:46-48 NIV

Do you know that God has a plan for you? A purpose? Just for you--no one else.

When He created you, He had a definite plan for you--a purpose. This purpose can only be done by you--no one else. Isn't that amazing to think about?

The reason I say that is because at times it may seem that you are just one in a sea of people that God has created. That it wouldn't matter that you were here or not--that you have nothing to contribute. But you do and you're not. God created you with you in mind. And if you allow Him, He can and will use you to better His world and further His Kingdom.

You don't have to be a world-famous pastor or a nationally known name--all you have to be is yourself and have a willing heart and spirit. Open your soul and let Him fill it with Himself and you will be amazed at what you can do for Him.

So you do count, you know. Just graciously accept the role that your God has planned for you. Open yourself and He will gently guide you to where He wants you to be. It's a fabulously, humbling journey.

"'On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.'" John 14:20 NIV

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Body

"If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it."
1 Corinthians 12:26,27 NLT

I have a friend who is very ill. In fact, he is very close to entering heaven. I am amazed at the love and support that his church family is surrounding him with. People are calling, visiting, bringing meals, holding hands, doing whatever is needed to comfort and support him and his family during this time of need. The reason that I am amazed is that very often it is the paid clergy that ministers to the needs within the church. This is not how it should be.

The Body of Christ is meant to celebrate Jesus and one another. The Body is also meant to comfort and encourage one another. The overwhelming support that I witness for my friend is not programmed or planned. It is an intentional response to the love of God in each others lives.

Don't wait for direction, permission, the pastor, or conviction to reach out and minister with the love of Jesus. It's already been given to you by God. We have been called to love each other with the love Christ has given us.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Father's Love

"Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes." Ephesians 1:4 NLT

As Christians, we often hear the phrase "God loves you". And He does. But I'm afraid at times, we tend to take that for granted.

"Of course God loves me, He has to," is my response. But is that necessarily so? Does God have to love me? He created me and died for me, but does that mean He has to love me? I help create Amanda and Jordan, does that mean I have to love them?

Can I venture to say, No. I don't have to love them just because I help create them. But I chose to love them because they are my heart--they are a part of me. A very special part.

The same is with our Lord. He didn't have to create us. Don't you think He knew the heartache we would cause Him? But He chose to create us anyway. He loved us enough to make a way that would save us from ourselves--Jesus--and sacrificed His One and Only so that we would be holy and blameless in His sight. He planned that ahead, because He loved us.

It's not always easy to say, "God loves me." So many feelings come to surface. I'm not worthy--God loves me. I'm a sinner--God loves me. I don't deserve to be loved--God loves me.

God's love for you isn't based on anything except pure graciousness and honesty. He truly loves you without strings, or conditions or walls. Can you accept that? Can you say to yourself, out loud, "God loves ME." Go ahead, try it. You may feel silly but you need to hear yourself say it. God loves me.

And all He wants is for you to love Him likewise, in return. I ask you gently, can you do that?

"And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, who long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully." Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Take Courage

"For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With His love He will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

We live in a fearful world. Fear of failure. Fear of being alone. Fear of being forgotten. Fear of being judged. Of not living up to whatever the criteria is that we or the world has set us up for. Fear is all around us.

Not all fear is bad. There is the healthy fear that keeps us from doing wrong or keeps us from doing crazy things. That fear we need to keep. It's from our spirit.

But the worldly fear is just a way to keep us under the control of satan. If we are too fearful, we won't venture out and do what our spirit tells us to because, well, what happens if I fail? What happens if people judge me?

Take heart my friend! Don't let fear control your life. Put yourself into the Lord's hands. With His love, He will calm all your fears. With His love, you can and will do mighty things. With His love, you have no reason to fear.

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand." Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Never Stop

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 NLT

Always be joyful. How can that be? Isn't that just a little bit phony?

Am I suppose to be joyful when my life is falling apart? Am I suppose to be joyful when I am up to my ears in debt? Am I to be joyful when a bad things are happening to me or to someone I know? I just don't understand God--always be joyful. I'm hurt, mad, scared, lonely, I don't feel joyful. You just don't understand!

Do these thoughts ever run through your mind and spirit? They do mine. Yes, even though I teach this lesson, I'm human. It's hard to live it. Especially with my personality that wants to fix "it"--quickly--and then move on.

But you see, God never gives us a command and then let's us flounder on alone. If we take time to really read His word, the answer on "How" is there. The very next sentence. "Never stop praying." Never stop praying. But I don't feel like praying. NEVER stop praying. But I pray and nothing ever changes. NEVER stop praying. I don't know how or what to say. NEVER stop praying.

Sometimes you need to go through rough spots to become the person that God has designed you to be. If He didn't, you would have the tendency to become lazy and complacent. It's our nature. Remember Adam and Eve. They had a whole garden full of delicious food--just an arms reach away. But Eve got bored with the easy shopping. Satan enticed her with a challenge and she ate it up.

So, how are you going to handle your spirit's outlook on life's situation? Are you going to be all sullen-faced and complaining or are you going to "always be joyful" with the aid of a healthy, consistent prayer life? The choice is up to you.

Monday, May 18, 2009


"I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word."
Psalm 119:81 NLT

It isn't always easy when we follow Christ. Sometimes the process is long and strenuous. It seems like it would be easier to just take difficult matters into our own hands, and fix the problem. But we wait. We choose out of obedience, to let God handle our problems. Maybe God is the only hope for our problems. Nothing we or anyone else has tried can, or will work. We have no other options. It's God or bust!

God is on His time schedule, not ours. He has a way of doing things that doesn't always make sense to us. The process of waiting can start to wear us down. But God has given us something to put our hope in; His word. God is always true to His word. The truth of His word is greater than the problems we are facing. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. He promises strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

Are you worn out? What are you putting your hope in?

"Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created." Psalm 119:89,90 NLT

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fear and Anger

"Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands....They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly." Psalm 112:1,7-8 NLT

I was having a meeting with a couple of people. One of them was describing his father's anger problem. As he was describing what it was like to be around his father, the other person said that his father had anger issues too. Then he said that anger is often related to fear issues. That got me thinking. Later that day while I was counseling a person dealing with anger and addictions, it was obvious that his anger was linked to the fear, grief, and loss issues that he and his family were dealing with. Or should I say, they were not dealing with.

You see, we experience situations that cause fear, loss, and grief. It's part of the human experience. When we acknowledge our feelings and work through them, we can receive healing and move on. But when we suppress or cover over those feelings, they can manifest as anger. When we respond in this way over a period of time, it becomes the normal way we handle life. The next thing you know--you have an anger control problem.

I struggle with this problem. I have tried to recover, move on, be a man, and get on with life. I don't really acknowledge fear, loss, and grief. I default to anger. My healing in this started as I acknowledged my problem. Actually, I believe the Lord revealed it to me. Then I began to understand how fear and other emotions have effected me. I turned those over to the Lord in prayer. I received the healing God's Spirit brings. I share my struggles with others, for support, encouragement, and wisdom. Then I change how I respond.

The Bible tells us to rid ourselves of anger. I'm not talking about righteous anger. I believe the Bible is speaking about self-centered, or out-of-control anger.

One of the ways to get victory over fear is through the word of God and trusting what it says. Then receive the love of God into your life.

"We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. We love each other because He loved us first." 1 John 4:16-19 NLT

How about you? Are you finding yourself struggling with anger? There's help. There's Jesus, our living hope.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who Are You Hanging Out With?

"Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble."
Proverbs 13:20 NLT

My son came home from school one day. He had gotten into trouble. When I asked him what happened, it was obvious that hanging out with troublemakers had gotten him in trouble. He reminded me of me. I used to hang out with a crowd of "friends" that liked to drink, do drugs and loved immorality. The problem was, I did too. We influenced one another in all of the wrong ways. When I became a Christian and really tried to follow Christ, my "friends" left me.

I know that Jesus associated with people that were considered "sinners." In fact we're all sinners. Christians have been forgiven, and saved by grace. That's the difference. Jesus was not influenced for evil by the people He hung out with. In fact, He influenced people toward following God. I'm not saying that we should be exclusive snobs. But the fact is, many of us are influenced by the people we hang out with. Our friends and even our associates, have influence in our lives. Not necessarily over our lives, but certainly in our lives. In our decisions. How we act.

The truth is, if you want to excel in something, associate with people that bring out the best in you. If you want to be a better Christian, find a mentor that you would aspire to be like. If you want to be a better athlete, associate with great athletes or trainers. If you want to excel in business, find the best in the field, and follow them. You get the point. Who you are and become, is largely influenced by who you spend time with.

So, who are you hanging out with? Who are your mentors? Who are you investing in? What examples are you following?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Buffet

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:1-2 NLT

I think that we treat following Jesus like working our way through a buffet line. The Bible says to be renewed in our thinking. To live a life of worship to God. To live a life that is contrary to the standards of the world. But instead, we work our way through the buffet line. We pick and choose what teachings of Christ we want to follow and the ones we don't. We add a heaping spoonful of grace and prosperity to our self-indulgent plates. But we turn up our noses at obedience and selflessness.

Jesus didn't just give a piece of Himself for us at the cross. He doesn't just offer us a partial relationship. He gives us His all.

So, as you go through the buffet line of following Jesus, what are you leaving off your plate? Why? Try eating your veggies. You just might find they're not only good for you, you might actually like them!

Monday, May 11, 2009


"And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering." Romans 8:17 NLT

We don't like to talk about suffering. Even less, we don't like to suffer. We pay millions of dollars to avoid suffering. We purchase appliances, medicines, and even addictions to ease our suffering. We like the scriptures that teach prosperity, happiness, and ease. But, we avoid the passages that speak to our suffering.

There are various types of suffering. I just lost a close friend. His wife is suffering her loss. Some suffering is self-inflicted. We spend without thinking and suffer the consequences of debt or bankruptcy. We treat someone we say we love with contempt and suffer the lose of a relationship.

Sometimes we suffer for doing the right things. We suffer because we follow Jesus. The Christ follower that won't compromise their relationship with Jesus for an immoral relationship with a lover. They suffer loneliness and rejection. The person that won't compromise their relationship with Christ over their family. They suffer loss and rejection.

Jesus suffered in our humanity. He suffered through rejection, temptation, loss, ridicule, poverty and finally the cross. Don't think that God is angry with you, uncaring or unreal when you suffer. Jesus said that in this world we will have suffering. But He also said that we should take heart, because He overcame the world. He has something much better in store for us.

We are not alone in our sufferings. In the midst of your suffering cling to Jesus. Cling to your living hope!

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, 'For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.') No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:35-39 NLT

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thank you God for Women

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last,
but a woman who fears the LORD will be
greatly praised." Proverbs 31:30 NLT

As we all know--or should know--this Sunday is a day that we dedicate ourselves to honoring our mothers. After all, if there weren't mothers, you and I wouldn't be here now would we?

I come to this day with two thoughts: one is that mothers are very special people and should be honored. Every day. Not just one day a year. Their role is such an important one. And they don't always get the respect and thanks that they should.

The other thought is this--I have known women who would give their eye teeth to be able to become a mom and for whatever the circumstance is, aren't. Shouldn't they be honored as well? Special days like this Sunday is like a sword to them. It brings to home the emptiness, the sadness, the ache. Some women may even feel that they are being "punished". Of course they aren't. But that's how they feel.

And then there is the woman who just chooses not the become a mom. What about her?

So, this is what I am thinking. This Sunday, May 10th, let's honor ALL women. Not to take away from our mothers, but God created all women.

I am so thankful for all the special women that the Lord has brought into my life. My mom. I know that we have had an estranged relationship, but she is my mother and I treasure her. My strong & beautiful Peggy, who amazes me so often with her ability to take what God gives her, the good and the bad, and runs with it. Amanda, the daughter of my heart, that at 19 has such grace and wisdom that is far above her years. My friend Melanie, who lost her daughter 2 years ago to cancer and now is losing her husband to brain cancer--she's re-teaching me the importance of making every day count. Kay Mickel, who's strength in the Lord, keeps her going to chemo every week, knowing she's going to feel horrible the next day. And when you see her, she has such a beaming smile. The list could go on.

If you have a woman in your life that has made an impact, tell her. If you have an estrange relationship, if appropriate, call and make amends. What could be a more appropriate time?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Ultimate Day Planner

"For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NLT

For those of you that know me, this may take you by surprise, but I like to plan. No kidding! I'm a planner. I make the plan and then release it to someone else to get accomplish. Then I start a new plan. And release. The cycle continues. Until, uhg, there's a bump in the road. Man, does that irritate me. I don't remember planning a bump in the road in my plan. Great! Now I need to plan a plan-revision. That definitely wasn't in my plan.

Do you relate to me? Does any of this sound familiar? We are a society of planners--time-fillers. We have Blackberries, laptops, cellphones--to help us to control our time. But what about God? I'm as guilty as the next person. I get so wrapped up with my planning, that I don't always remember to bring God in. To ask Him His blessing, His input. And then, uhg, the infamous bump in the road.

Bumps in the road can be very irritating but they can also be a blessing. A gentle reminder from the LORD, "Hello, I think I have a better plan." And He's right you know. He is the ultimate planner. He created the earth in six days. Pretty impressive resume, don't you think?

If we give our day to the Lord, then we will have the assurance that whatever happens that day, whatever we get accomplished or don't get accomplished, was a part of His divine plan. And with that assurance, comes peace and tranquility. We can release any hurriness, guilt or regret and enjoy the life and people He has blessed us with.

What about you? Who's going to schedule your day? Try trusting Jesus.

"You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:21 NLT

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:19 NLT

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Life is a Gift

"I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb.
Before you were born I set you apart." Jeremiah 1:5 NLT

Recently I was confronted by a Christian sister that was in tears. The night before, a 20 year old young man in our community had committed suicide. She was confused and angry. She wanted to know why God hadn't shown her that this young man was in pain so that she could of tried to help him. She saw him everyday at the feedstore and she said she could have helped him but instead, God had just let the young man struggle alone.

Yes, God allows us to struggle at times, but NEVER alone. And I'm not sure where his heart or spirit were, but along with Himself there, God did send angels to try to spare him--his mother, his brother, his girlfriend, some friends--they were there but this young man had freewill and he choose what he choose.

Please understand, I'm not being callous. But in my years of counseling, a person who really wants to end it, will end it. No matter what. They have come to the brickwall. For whatever reason, to them, taking their life is the only answer. What they don't think about is the ones they leave behind. The guilt that the survivors feel is tremendous. Like this sister, the what if's and if only, keep going around and around.

Life is a precious gift from God. He formed you and as He created you, He designed great plans for you and your life. What you do with that life is up to you because with the gift of life, He also gave us the gift of freewill.

Don't let life get so lost that the only option is to check out. I know that suicide is a subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about. But with it happening more and more these days, it needs to be talked about.

You need to know that every day is a gift from your Heavenly Father and even if it runs rough, it is only for a time. Turn to Jesus--He will bring you through. Turn to His Word, the Bible--it will strengthen you. Turn to a good group of support people that you trust and are well-grounded--they will carry and encourage you.

Life IS a gift--are you going to accept it or reject it?

"Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life." Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NLT

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Heart Reflections

"As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person." Proverbs 27:19 NLT

When you were a little person, did you ever stand next a puddle of water and see your reflection in it? Did you stand there and make faces in it? Or did you jump in it? I must admit, I've been known to make faces and jump in--with both feet!

Isn't that just like life? We don't want people to get too close, to see into our lives too clearly, so we break up the clear reflection and make things murky so that people will see just what we want them to see. We act goofy so that it distracts people from looking too close. To see into our hearts.

I'm sure you have heard of the saying, "Be careful of what you say, because it shows what is hidden in your heart." And to a huge degree, that is true. We are a world of people that feel the need to disguise our imperfections. Our hair greys, we color. Our skin sags, we tuck. We have additions, we hide. The list could go on. But while we can hide a lot of things, sooner or later, what we are truly like inside will come forth. And the center of us is our heart.

"Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze cover a clay pot." Proverbs 26:23 NLT

What about you? Do you hide your heart so that no one sees the real you or are you transparent? It's scary to let people see the "real" you, to look into your heart. I know, I've been there. On the other hand, it is so freeing. To know that you aren't living a double life. That you are being true not only to yourself, but to your Lord.

God never said you had to be perfect. All He commands you to do is to love Him with your whole heart and soul and mind.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Deeper Issue

"Then the devil said to Him, 'If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.'

But Jesus told him, 'No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.'"
Luke 4:3,4 NLT

Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness for forty days. He was very hungry. He was at a vulnerable point in His life. Satan took advantage of the weakness in Christ. He tempted Jesus to turn stone into bread so He could meet his immediate need; His hunger. Sounded logical. After all, Jesus could turn the stone into bread if He wanted to. But He chose not to do so. Why? Jesus knew that the changing the stone issue wasn't the true issue. The real issue at hand was not His hunger. It was His dependence on His Father and the Holy Spirit. There was a "deeper issue."

We get challenged the same way today. We perceive an issue in our life to be the main issue. For example, an alcoholic may say the issue in his life is his drinking. But the real issue is why is he choosing to drink? What are the factors underlying his drinking addiction?

When our son Jordan was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I was mad. But God showed me that there was a deeper issue with Jordan. God is still in the miracle business. But what if He used Jordan's disease to help shape Jordan into the man of God he is called to be? What if God used Jordan's diabetes to shape his destiny? What if God was glorified in spite of Jordan's weakness?

So here are the questions that I have been asking myself. I'll ask you too. What "loaf of bread" or request are you asking God for? What is the deeper issue?