Saturday, December 25, 2010

By Grace



For by grace are you saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift-not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB

I am extremely fortunate to work with talented musicians and artists everyday. I love interacting with these creative people who are so passionate about communicating their feelings to the world in various ways. Over the years, I’ve heard glorious music, viewed breathtaking art, read heart-wrenching poems, and watched realistic drama. I’m constantly amazed and often overwhelmed by the tremendous talent that God has given to His people.

However, it’s not through the artistic gifts of people that we are redeemed. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. It’s comforting to know that our salvation doesn’t rely on how high we can sing, how beautifully we can paint, how perfectly we can act, or how wonderfully we can write. There is no one who can brag, “It’s because of my amazing vocal abilities that I am saved.”

Sooner or later, even the super talented must realize that we are not the source of our salvation. It’s only by the grace of Jesus.

Lord, thank You for Your grace.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joy



Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4 HCSB

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to embrace the great joy that I’m supposed to find in the trials of life. You won’t normally find me saying, “It looks like I’m getting ready to go through some hard times! Isn’t it wonderful! I’m so glad that my faith is being tested because I know that faith produces endurance! Yippee!”

However, going through times of faith testing is good for us. It helps build up our spiritual endurance for future situations in which we will find ourselves. When a runner trains for a marathon, the rigorous training time is important to build up the endurance he needs to make it the full 26 miles on the day of the race. In a similar fashion, we must view our spiritual trials as a positive experience, meant to help us increase our faith to higher levels of endurance.

Lord, help us see the joy that can come from the struggles of life.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cost



For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 HCSB

There is no victory at bargain basement prices. Dwight D. Eisenhower*

My wife is always looking for a bargain. In fact, if what she’s looking for isn’t on sale, she’s most likely not going to buy it. We live across the street from a mall and she walks through it all the time, but she purchases most of her clothes from discount department stores, at thrift stores, and even garage sales. She has one pair of shoes that she purchased for $2.50 at a discount shoe outlet. When I asked her how much the shoes were, she answered, “They were only $1.25 each.”

Fortunately, when God saw that we needed redemption, He didn’t go looking for a bargain. He offered the most valuable thing that exists, Himself, to purchase our salvation. He lowered Himself to become a man. Then, substituting Himself for us, He died an excruciating death on a cross, after being beaten mercilessly. The cost was greater than that of anything ever purchased.

Lord, thank You for paying the full cost of the penalty for my sin.

*brainyquote.com

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall Short



For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24 HCSB

Once, when I was leading worship, I made a very embarrassing mistake. I was doing a spoken transition from one praise song to the next while the piano played softly behind me. What I meant to say was that “Jesus was the only person who ever lived who was able to live a totally sinless life.” However, when the moment came to speak those words, I accidentally said, “Jesus was the only person who ever lived who was able to live a totally sinful life.” Fortunately, my pastor informed me of my error during the offering and I was able to reaffirm my theological stance to the congregation later in the service.

Jesus did live a sinless life. No one else who has ever lived can make that claim to fame, not the Apostle Paul, not John Calvin, not Mother Theresa, not Billy Graham, no one. When I reflect on this, I remember that it’s only by the grace and mercy of God that we are saved.

Lord, thank You for Your grace and mercy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shall Not Perish



For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 HCSB

And now let me address all of you, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to accept the mercy and grace while it is offered to you; Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.
George Whitefield*

I was sixteen when I made the best decision of my life. I had been studying the Bible and came to the realization that there was a God who loved me. In fact, He loved me so much that He left Heaven and lowered Himself to live as a man so that He could live a perfectly sinless life and then die a horrible death on a cross to pay the price for the bad things that I had done. Once I came to the realization that I could know this God personally, I jumped at the chance. I asked Him to forgive me of my sins and to become the Lord of my life.

Lord, thank You for dying on a cross for me. I love You.

*brainyquote.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Creation



Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 HCSB

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
Albert Einstein*

I like to see new places. I like to experience new things. I like to try different types of foods. However, I’ve noticed that when I travel, I most often look for familiar restaurant chains when choosing a place to eat instead of embracing one of a kind local cuisine.

Why do I do that? Doesn’t it make sense that trying new restaurants would enhance the adventure and excitement of my journey? However, most often, I’m simply not willing to risk it. It seems that even when I am seeking adventure, there’s a part of me that wants security. I suppose that’s something that’s built into all of us.

Fortunately, when we come to Christ and become a new creation, we not only get to experience the new that comes with knowing Him, but we gain the greatest security that has ever been and ever will be.

Lord, help me to embrace the adventure and security that comes with being a new creation through You.

*brainyquote.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2010



For by grace are you saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift-not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB

Grace is what God gives us what we don’t deserve and mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve. Anonymous*

I don’t know about you, but I often forget about the extreme grace that the Lord has bestowed upon me. I mean, I’ve received the salvation that He has to offer, but in my day-to-day life I often don’t reflect on His mercy towards me. Instead, I get caught up in all of the things that I have to do, things that I tend to believe make me more spiritual or holy or righteous. Those are all good things, but they all pale in comparison to the righteousness that comes upon me because of the grace and mercy of Jesus. He loves us so much even though we don’t deserve His love. His grace truly is amazing.

Lord, thank You for Your grace and thank You for Your mercy. Help us to always remember what You have done for us and how much that you love us.

*thinkexist.com

Monday, November 1, 2010

Walter



Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 HCSB

The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation. Charles Spurgeon*

Whenever Walter was naughty in school, his teacher punished him by making him miss recess. As the other children played, Walter would have to stand in time out with his arms folded, watching the other children have fun. One day, when Walter was being especially stubborn, he started mumbling, “I hate time out, I don’t want to be in time out, I’m not in time out…” However, after a few minutes, Walter stopped mumbling. He finally came to the realization that his situation wasn’t going to change simply because of his words and beliefs.

Many people are just as stubborn as Walter. They believe that as long as they are sincere in their beliefs that they will still be able to live in Heaven with God when they die. However, Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

Jesus, help us to accept the fact that You are the only way of salvation.

*brainyquote.com

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Complaining



Brothers, do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged. James 4:9A HCSB

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. 1 John 3:14A HCSB

When any fit of gloominess, or perversion of mind, lays hold upon you, make it a rule not to publish it by complaints. Samuel Johnson*

Several years ago, I attended a knock down, drag out, nail biting, back biting, pull out all of the stops, bring your own bullet proof vest church business meeting. Personal complaints were verbalized which prompted vicious rebuttals. People pointed fingers, assigned blame, and even cursed. Even those called upon to pray had the audacity to complain about specific individuals in their prayers. I went home that evening extremely discouraged and seriously considered leaving the ministry altogether.

There’s a fine line between constructive criticism and critical complaints. As followers of Jesus, we must remember that we are His representatives. When we openly spread negative comments about fellow believers, we are damaging the validity of our own testimony while demeaning the value of their Christian witness and ministry.

Lord, help us to be people who lift each other up with the words that we say.

*quotegarden.com

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do Good



Trust in the Lord and do what is good; Psalm 37:3a

True holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile. Mother Theresa of Calcutta*

There have been times in my life and ministry when I have said to God, “Surely this is not Your will for my life. Surely You didn’t provide me with all those years of education for me to be doing what I am doing right now. What’s the deal?”

God has always placed people in awkward situations. Stephen testified as to the divinity of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, but was immediately stoned to death. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? However, we later learn that because of this, Christians were scattered throughout all of Judea and Samaria. As the believers traveled, settled, worked, and lived, they spread their newfound faith to people throughout the entire land. God’s purposes were fulfilled because Stephen was obedient in a difficult situation.

God places us where He wants us to be. It’s not truly for us to understand why, but to be obedient to Him, doing good where He has placed us, serving Him with a smile.

Lord, help us to always faithfully serve You, no matter where that may be.

*thinkexist.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

Humble



He mocks those who mock, but gives grace to the humble. Proverbs 3:34 HCSB

Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble. Ralph Waldo Emerson*

Humble, Texas is a city in southeast Texas. Contrary to popular belief, the city was not named for its humble beginnings, but was so designated in honor of Pleasant Smith Humble, one of its original founders. Some of the business names in Humble are Humble Landscaping, Humble Instruments, Humble Geothermal Systems, Humble High School, Humble Computers, and (my personal favorite) the Humble Girl’s Softball League. Even though these organization names begin with the word “Humble,” we understand that it’s just a name and does not attribute the quality to them.

Worshipers of Jesus are considered by many to exhibit humility because of our relationship with Christ. However, humility must be more than a designated title or perceived characteristic to us. We must make our attitude like that of Jesus. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8 HCSB).

Lord, help us exemplify humility in our lives as we strive to become more like You.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Polaroid




Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8 HCSB

The only way to have a friend is simply be his friend. Ralph Waldo Emerson*

It was 1979. I was in fifth grade on a school field trip when my friend Brian pulled out his Polaroid instant camera and started taking pictures. Trying to be funny, I threw my left hand in front of the camera just as Brian snapped a picture. As the picture slowly came into view, my hand was the only image that could be distinguished.

Brian was furious and yelled, “Do you know how much this film costs? You owe me a dollar!”

Ashamed of what I had done and embarrassed that I didn’t have a dollar, I ran away and tried to avoid Brian as best I could. After a few weeks, he stopped asking me about the dollar, but I didn’t stop avoiding him. I wanted to apologize, but I never did. Brian and I never did anything together again.

Looking back now, I realize that I gave up a friendship because of fear, pride and money.

Lord, help us to treasure our friends.

*brainyquote.com

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

All Things


I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 HCSB

If you believe in what you are doing, then let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. Dale Carnegie*

Someone once told me that if you rush a miracle man that you get rotten miracles. I wouldn’t consider myself a miracle man, but I often feel rushed when called upon to produce something of extreme quality in a short amount of time with seemingly substandard materials. During those moments of anxiety, I’m often tempted to simply give up.

But then, in a moment of personal revelation, I remember that the Lord is with me. I remember how He saved Noah during a world wide flood, how He helped David conquer the giant warrior Goliath, and how He kept Daniel safe as he spent the night in a den filled with hungry lions. Finally, I remember how He has helped me through countless of other seemingly impossible situations.

Lord, as we’re faced with insurmountable challenges, help us to remember that You can help us do everything that needs to be done.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Taste



Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Psalm 34:8 HCSB

You will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside. Oswald Chambers*

There’s a new frozen yogurt place in town. It’s a self-serve operation where you have multiple flavors to choose from. Recently, my wife Kathy and I visited and I filled my cup with strawberry and blueberry yogurt and then topped it off with fresh strawberries and blueberries. It was incredibly delicious. I was just about to purchase another cup when I saw the woman who soured my experience. She walked up to the first machine, stuck her finger up the nozzle so that it was covered in yogurt, licked her finger clean, and then repeated the process for each of the machines. Needless to say, it put a bad taste in my mouth towards that yogurt place, even though she was just another customer.

Sometimes, other Christians put a bad taste in our mouths regarding the Lord. When we finally turn our lives over to Him and experience His life changing salvation, we taste and see that He is good. As we continue to grow in Him, we often find ourselves enjoying His presence when suddenly, we are completely distracted by someone who is rude, selfish, condescending, hurtful, arrogant, or obnoxious. However, we shouldn’t let them interfere with our understanding of the Lord. He is holy. He is righteous. He is faithful. He is loving. He is awesome. He is good.

Lord, thank You for being so good. When the actions of others put a bad taste in our mouths, help us remember Your goodness.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Christmas



(I've been thinking about Christmas this morning. Here's a poem I once submitted for a greeting card. I hope that you like it.)

This Christmas,
I want to get up way too early in the morning
And watch excited children rip open their presents.

This Christmas,
I want to visit our crazy families
And eat enormous meals at crowded dinner tables.

This Christmas,
I want to sing carols with our old friends
And laugh at all their familiar stories and outdated jokes.

This Christmas,
I want to doze while watching the same old Christmas movies
And smile as we quote them line for line.

But this Christmas,
When everything else has been said and done,
I want to spend an hour with you,
Your hand in mine,
Enjoying the gift we have in each other.

I love you.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Essential



“He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.’” Luke 11:1

“We must pray. Prayer is essential to our life, like breathing. Without it, we die.” Kyle Lake*

Isn’t it interesting that one of the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray? Here, the group of men who spent all day, every day, with Jesus, who had seen Him perform miracles of every kind and heard Him preach to thousands, made the simple request for Jesus to teach them how to pray. They did not ask for Him to teach them how to perform miracles. They did not ask for Him to teach them how to attract large crowds. They must have somehow understood that Jesus’ prayer life, His one on one communication with His heavenly Father, was essential for His supernatural power.

As you pray today, ask the Lord to help you strengthen your prayer life. Tell Him that you desire for your prayer life to be more vital and vibrant than it has ever been in the past.

*(re) Understanding Prayer, foreword

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Words



May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 HCSB

Live so that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip. Will Rogers*

Have you ever said something about someone to someone else because you knew the first someone would never know what you said to the second someone and even if the first someone found out what you said to the second someone they still wouldn’t know why you said it and what you really meant by saying it in the first place? Even trying to read the previous sentence is confusing because somewhere along the way, you get your “someones” confused.

God hears every word that comes out of our mouths and knows the thoughts we had about them before we say them. As much as we might try, there’s no possible way that we can sneak around Him and say something without Him knowing the content and the
intent. Therefore, we should try our best to please Him with the thoughts that we have and with the words that we say.

Lord, be pleased with my words and thoughts today.

*thinkexist.com

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Field



The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. Luke 10:2 HCSB

My house is full, but my field is empty, who will go and work for me today? It seems my children all want to stay around my table, but no one wants to work in my field… Lanny Wolfe*

When I was eleven, my family moved to a farm in the country where I encountered real farm chores and consistent farm food for the first time in my life. I must confess that I was more enthusiastic about the food than I was the chores.

In the church, most of us enjoy the benefits of being a part of the family of God more than we desire to serve Him and His people. And when we come across a scripture like the one above, instructing us to pray that God would send out people to work for Him, we skip over that prayer because secretly we’re afraid that it might He might send us.

Lord, send out workers to minister and help us be willing if it is us that You call.


*My House Is Full

Monday, August 2, 2010

Skillful



Chenaniah, the leader of the Levites in music, was to direct the music because he was skillful. 1 Chronicles 15:22 HCSB

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. William A. Foster*

When King David brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, he instructed the leaders of the Levites to appoint from their relatives singers and instrumentalists to lead the musical worship. The primary worship leader of the Levites was named Chenaniah. He was selected to lead the people because he was skillful.

It’s interesting that Chenaniah wasn’t selected because he was handsome, friendly, well connected, or super spiritual. He was selected because he was skillful. When my home had severe plumbing problems, I called the best plumber in the area. When there’s a task to be accomplished that really matters, the best person for the job is someone who is skillful.

What skills do you have? How are you using them? What can you do to develop them?

Lord, thank You for the skills You have given us. Help us develop them in order to serve You better.

*thinkexist.com

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Instead



I will praise You, because I have been fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14A HCSB

Before God created you, He decided what role He wanted you to play on earth. Rick Warren*

Before Caleb was born, God carefully molded him into a unique shape that He designed specifically for him. He wired Caleb’s inborn creative talents with his future artistic ministry in mind. Caleb was fearfully and wonderfully made.

But, then Caleb was born. As he child, he tried living in his unique creative form, but his parents pushed him towards sports instead. He needed to learn discipline. As a teenager, Caleb signed up for the art club at school, but his friends pressured him into playing football instead, so he changed his schedule. Besides, football would be fun. In college, Caleb wanted to major in art, but his advisor steered him towards accounting instead. It was, of course, a much more practical vocation.

Now, Caleb has his own business, a nice home, and a great family. However, he
constantly doodles and daydreams of a different life, one that feels more natural to him.

Lord, give us the boldness to be who You created us to be.

*The Purpose Drive Life

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Accident



Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. Psalm 139:16 HCSB

God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame. Elizabeth Barrett Browning*

I watched as the teenage girl silently looked at the pictures of her family on the wall. Her brothers and sisters were much older than she and had long since started their own families. Many of their awards still graced the picture wall. She turned and said, “I don’t fit into my family. It’s easy to see that I was an accident.”

My young friend may have been a surprise to her family, but the Lord had plans for her before she was ever conceived. He knew the ins and outs of each day that she would live. He saw the happiest moments of her life and he already knew the number of tears that she would ever cry. He gifted her with talents and abilities that would make her unique and special. As she was being formed, He turned to the angels and said, “She sure is precious to me.”

Lord, thank You that none of us are accidents.

*Sonnets From the Portuguese, 26

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gifts



According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of faith; if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8 HCSB

Everyone is gifted – but some people never open their package. Anonymous*

Even though I love my church, because of the growing demands of the worship ministry, I most often find myself in the role of producer as opposed to worship leader, praise singer, or instrumentalist. Yesterday, it hit me hard that it had been a long time since I had been able to use my gifts and talents in these areas. “Lord,” I prayed. “Please show me somehow that You have still called me to lead people into Your presence.”

That’s when an elderly lady entered my office with a smile.

“Can you help us?” she asked.

Thinking that she probably wanted something moved, I sighed and said, “Sure, what do you need?”

“Well,” she said. “Our small group is meeting and we need someone to lead us in worship. Can you help?”

“Certainly,” I replied.

Lord, thank You for opportunities to serve You with our gifts.

*thinkexist.com

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Plans



For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 HCSB

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.
Mother Theresa*

All my life, I’ve been taught that Jesus loves me and has great plans for my life that will change the world for His glory. I believe that with all my heart. However, I often lose sight of the purposes that He has for me. I sometimes even doubt that He has plans for me at all. But then I finally come back to His Word, and I read about how He created us in His image, how time and again He used His people, even ordinary, everyday people, to fulfill His purposes. That gives me hope. It helps me remember how God has used me in the past and builds my faith for what He will have for me to accomplish in the future. When all of these things come clear to me, I have no choice but to respond with worship.

Lord, thank You for giving my life purpose. I worship You.

*thinkexist.com

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nothing Compares



As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1-2 HCSB

Even as I was directing the short testimony film, I was convicted. In preparation for an upcoming patriotic service, I was filming an interview with an elderly veteran. Close to the end of the taping, I asked him if he had any advice for younger Christians today. He smiled, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “You’ve got to pray. You’ve got to pray when you get up in the morning, pray at your morning work break, pray at lunch, pray at your afternoon break, pray when you get home, pray before you go to bed. Then get up the next morning and pray again. If you don’t pray, it’s just like having vitamins sitting right next to you that you don’t take. You’ve got to pray. It’s a nourishing thing. It keeps you in contact with the Lord of the universe. Keep up Your relationship with Him. Nothing can compare to the mighty God we serve.”

God, it is You that I long for. Nothing compares to You.

Thursday, June 17, 2010



“If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up." Daniel 3:17-18 HCSB

People fashion their God after their own understanding. They make their God first and worship him afterwards.
Oscar Wilde*

Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, created an enormous statue of gold, nine feet wide and ninety feet high. Then, he summoned all of his government officials and told them that unless they bowed down and worshiped the image when the music played, that they would be thrown into a blazing furnace. Most of the officials, not wanting to lose their lives, obeyed wholeheartedly when the music played. However, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were extreme worshipers of the Lord. They refused to bow down and worship the image, even after Nebuchadnezzar confronted them personally. They were thrown into the furnace, but miraculously were not even singed.

Lord, give us the courage to worship You by saying “no” to other idols set before us.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Potential




Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7b HCSB

“The others are very pretty children,” said the old duck, “all but that one; I wish his mother could improve him a little.” Hans Christian Anderson*

On February of 1932, an American couple living in London gave birth to a baby girl. Unfortunately, she suffered from hypertrichosis and her entire body was completely covered in soft black hair. After a few weeks, her parents were relieved when the hair fell away, unveiling their newborn baby’s exquisite beauty. She grew up to be Elizabeth Taylor.

Samuel had the task of anointing a new king for Israel. When he asked to see the sons of Jesse, no one called David in from the field. He was the youngest and had been selected to watch the sheep while the older brothers were presented to the prophet. However, when David arrived, the Lord said to Samuel, “He is the one.”

The Lord sees your heart. He knows your potential. Be faithful to Him and follow His plans for your life no matter what circumstances tell you.

Lord, help us realize the potential You see in us.

*The Ugly Duckling

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Treasure



But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:20-21 HCSB

Unless we place our religion and our treasure in the same thing, religion will always be sacrificed.
Epictetus*

It was a great morning. Kathy and I were speaking and sharing at a small church in Arkansas. I had ended our session with a story about the dangers of getting caught up in physical possessions. Following the service, I was feeling pretty good about myself until I walked out to my car, my new car, which I had purchased, and saw what had happened. There was a small dent and a large scratch over the driver’s side bumper. I felt myself getting angry, but then I remembered what I had just shared with the congregation.

God knows what is important to us. He knows where and how we spend our money. He understands our motives. He sees what we cling to. He wants us to cling to Him. He wants to be our treasure.

Lord, You are more precious than any treasure we could ever acquire.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Newlyweds



Sing a new song to the Lord; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Psalm 96:1 HCSB

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. Mother Theresa*

As a part of our 19th anniversary celebration, Kathy and I visited a park with several gardens. As we exited The Herb Garden, an elderly lady asked, “Is that garden worth visiting?”

Kathy answered, “Oh yes, it’s very nice!”

Humorously, I said, “She had to explain it to me. I kept looking for a guy named Herb.

The woman looked at me like I had stolen her hamburger before saying, “You better watch out or she might be looking for a guy named Herb.

We all laughed and I said, “Nope, she’s mine.”

As Kathy and I walked away, hand in hand, I saw the lady shaking her head and I heard her say, “Newlyweds.”

Just as we must keep our marital relationships fresh, we must continually renew our relationship with the Lord. We must tell Him that we love Him. We must sing to Him a new song.

Help us, Lord, to worship You in a new and fresh way.

*thinkexist.com

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Restless



Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 HCSB

Now we are free, there’s no condemnation, Jesus provides a perfect salvation; “Come unto me,” O hear His sweet call, Come and He saves us once for all. Philip P. Bliss*

I have restless leg syndrome. When I am lying still at bedtime, without warning, one of my legs jerks involuntarily. It’s almost like there’s a mad puppeteer waiting for my wife and I to almost be asleep when he makes my legs kick and wakes both of us. Finally, a sleep specialist diagnosed my problem and gave me the appropriate medication. Unfortunately, I have to take it every night or the kicking resumes.

Fortunately, when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are completely free from the law of sin and death. It’s not a temporary fix for us. It is permanent. We don’t have to be saved all over again tomorrow or the next day. Jesus provided a perfect salvation that gives us perfect freedom.

Jesus, thank You for the freedom that you give to us.

*Free from the Law, O Happy Condition

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anointed



The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19 HCSB

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power! Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide! Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power, that sinners be converted and Thy name glorified! Charles H. Gabriel*

As a child, I never learned much about the Holy Spirit. However, as I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve noticed that whenever the Holy Spirit is involved in anything, God’s presence is felt and lives are changed. Jesus was both anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the ministry that the Father had given Him. In a similar fashion, we must also be empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Lord has given us spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities that we might minister to others and serve Him. How much more effective we would be if the Spirit of the Lord was upon us.

Father, empower us with Your Holy Spirit.

*Pentecostal Power

Friday, April 30, 2010

Freedom



Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 HCSB

Freedom is not free. Korean War Veterans Memorial

When I hear the word freedom, many things come to my mind. I think of the freedom that I have as an American. I think of the Freedom Tower in New York City. I think of convicts or being released from prison and modern day slaves being released from bondage. But, I sometimes wonder what it really means to be free in Christ?

Merriam-Webster.com defines freedom as “the quality or state of being exempt or released from something onerous.” Synonyms for onerous include backbreaking, burdensome, crushing, cumbersome, demanding, embittering, excessive, grueling, intolerable, merciless, oppressive, severe, toilsome, and weighty.**

I can think of nothing more onerous than the eternal death penalty that we are all sentenced to as a result of our sin and rebellion against God. Jesus, our Redeemer, allowed Himself to be viciously executed for us so that we might be freed from death row where we all sat waiting for our sentence to be carried out.

Thank You, Lord, for granting us freedom from eternal death.

*Merriam-Webster.com
**thesaurus.com

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Safe




Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about You.
2 Peter 5:6-7 HCSB

When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.
Civilla D. Martin*

It was an average Saturday in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Sixty-year-old Dale Thrasher was alone in the Hillcrest Baptist Church and was busy making copies when the building started to pop. He looked outside and realized that the building had been engulfed by a tornado.

Later, Dale recalled “As I passed the sanctuary, the doors were open and I felt the Lord leading me inside. I slid under the communion table. It was just like the Lord put his arms around me… Furniture started swirling around. I just covered my head and said, ‘Lord, please save me.’”**

The Hillcrest Baptist Church building was destroyed, but the Lord saved Dale’s life.

“The Lord saved my soul in 1970,” Dale shared with reporters. “On Saturday, He saved my natural life to do some work for Him.”**

Thank You, Lord, for saving us. May we, in turn, dedicate our lives to serving You.

*God Will Take Care of You
**http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=32808

Friday, April 23, 2010

Trading Places



He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB

I lowered the novel I was reading just in time to see Billy, Tommy, Scott and Albert wrestling around the back corner of the building.

“Those guys are going to get in trouble,” I said to myself. “They know we’re not supposed to wrestle or go back there.”

Ring…

Too soon as always, the bell signaling the end of recess sounded. I walked to the 5th grade line with my fellow students and waited to return to class. Instead of leading us back into the building, Miss Jones, the teacher’s aide in charge of recess, made an announcement.

“Everyone may go back to class except for Billy, Tommy, Scott and John. They were wrestling around the back corner of the building.”

All of the other kids, including Albert, said “Oooooooo!” as they walked to class.

“Miss Jones,” I cried. “It wasn’t me. I was by the tree reading this book.”

“No,” she answered. “I’m certain that it was you.”

“I’m telling you the truth,” I cried.

“Boys, you know that you are not supposed to wrestle or go behind the back of the building. As your punishment, each of you will write I will follow the rules during recess 500 times. And John will write it 750 times because he lied about it.”

“But I didn’t, Miss Jones!” I blurted out.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I meant that he will write it 1,000 times.”

When all was said and done, I ended up taking the punishment for someone else. I was mad at Albert, Miss Jones, and all of the other boys who said nothing.

Later in my life, I realized that Jesus took the punishment that was meant for me. However, unlike me, He willingly accepted the consequences for my sin. He so wanted me to have the opportunity to be righteous in the eyes of His Father that He made the ultimate sacrifice while I was still sinning against Him. And He did it all with a good attitude.

Jesus, thank You for becoming my sin so that I might become righteous through You.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Righteous



For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 HCSB

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt, Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Julia H. Johnston*

Adam and Eve had it made. They lived in a beautiful garden, there was plenty to eat, they had no clothing expenses, and sin was not a part of their lives. However, one day, they just had to taste the forbidden fruit. Through their disobedience, sin became the natural lifestyle of every person who will ever live. At that point, mankind was hopelessly abandoned to suffer the consequences of it’s rebellion against God. The wages of sin would certainly be death and we would all be found guilty. However, Jesus, the Lamb of God, intervened on our behalf, lowered Himself to be born as one of us, lived a perfectly sinless life, and offered Himself up for us all as an atoning sacrifice. He made a way for us to be restored to righteousness.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your Sacrifice. It made all the difference.

*Grace Greater Than Our Sin

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Reserved



Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 HCSB

Politics ain’t worrying this country one-tenth as much as where to find a parking space. Will Rogers*

There are many things that I like about my pastor. He’s a godly man, a hard worker, and a worshiper of Jesus. But one of the things I admire most about him is that he parks as far away as he can from the building on days when we have worship services. He understands that people are much less likely to be eternally impacted by what is shared in a worship service if they are not able to find a decent parking space. I know many Christian leaders who spend thousands of dollars to travel thousands of miles in order to do evangelism and missions, but who are unwilling to park away from their church buildings in order to provide better parking for guests who desperately need the love of Jesus. Praise God for a pastor who evangelizes in the way he parks his car.

Lord, help us share Your love with all people, even in the way we park our cars.

*thinkexist.com

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Miserable



Lord, I love the house where You dwell, the place where Your glory resides. Psalm 26:8 HCSB

Without worship, we go about miserable. A.W. Tozer*

I’m sure this never happens to you, but I have days when I feel like I just want to kill somebody. I walk around, tired and angry, snapping at everyone who even comes near me. I bark at my wife, snap at my coworkers, and even frown at young children and pets. Often, on the days when I go about in this rotten, miserable state, I realize that I haven’t spent any time in the presence of God.

When you spend time worshiping the Lord, troubling situations in life are put back into their proper perspective. God’s presence lifts you above your circumstances and helps you understand the next step of your life’s journey. If that isn’t enough, the Holy Spirit then helps you remember all that the Lord has done for you and as a result you begin to smile or even weep with joy.

With this in mind, what reason could there possibly be for me to ever neglect His presence?

Thank You, Lord, for the restoring, rejuvenating power of Your presence.

*experiencingworship.com

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

John the Baptist



There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:6-9 HCSB

I have always admired John the Baptist, living in the desert, eating locusts and honey, and baptizing people left and right. John preached that someone was coming who was far greater than he could ever possibly be. And when he saw Jesus, he proclaimed loudly, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 HCSB) Later, John told his followers, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 HCSB)

John uniquely prepared the way for Jesus to come, boldly announced the arrival of Jesus, and then quietly humbled himself as Jesus took center stage. We have the same responsibility today, no matter if we are leading in worship or witnessing to our friends and coworkers.

Lord, help us prepare the way for You, testify about You, and then get out of Your way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eggshells



The one who searches for what is good finds favor, but if someone looks for trouble, it will come to him. Proverbs 11:27 HCSB

Being offended is a natural consequence of leaving the house.
Fran Lebowitz*

As a sensitive artist in the church, I am sometimes guilty of making issues out of statements that were not really meant to be issues. I have been known to walk around with a big chip on my shoulder from time to time. I sometimes plunge into despair over the smallest amount of negative feedback that I receive. Even though God created me to be a tender person, He didn’t mean for me to walk around angry or offended all of the time.

Sometimes, negative criticism comes to us because we go out looking for it. We wake up and wait to be dumped on by the world. I’m tired of always looking for the bad in everything. I want to see what is good. I want to find favor and hear positive feedback. If I allow myself to be offended by every little thing, there’s too much good that I could possibly miss.

Lord, help me to search for what is good.

*thinkexist.com

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Great Work



So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" Nehemiah 6:3 HCSB

He who has why to live can bear almost any how. Friedrich Nietzche*

When Nehemiah was coordinating the building of the wall around Jerusalem, Satan used those who opposed him to distract him from the work he was doing. Sanballat and Geshem sent Nehemiah a message asking him to meet with them in another part of the country. He refused to do so because that would take him away from the work that was taking place.

Often, when we try to do something great for the Lord, Satan tries to distract us however he can. Sometimes, he uses other people as he did with Nehemiah. At other times, he may tempt us with some sort of secret sin. However he comes at us, we must strive to remain true to the Lord and to His calling for us.

Lord, show us what great work You want us to be a part of. Help us stay committed to You and to what You’ve called us to accomplish.

*thinkexist.com

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Names



Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

Once, when I was in Indonesia, I went to a Bible study where I noticed a young boy sitting by himself. I asked his name and was surprised when he answered, “John.” I smiled and told him that we shared the same first name. John must be a teenager by now, but I still pray for him when he crosses my mind.

During that same trip, I noticed a young girl on a downtown street begging for money. Her face was dirty, her clothes were torn, and she looked sleepy. I turned away, not knowing what to do. When I regained my composure and turned back, she was gone. I never had the chance to learn her name, but I still pray for her.

Fortunately, God knows the name of that little girl. He knows the names of all the children, teenagers, and adults who have ever lived and ever will live. He cares about children in Indonesia and he cares about our neighbors and family members who are hurting.

Lord, thank You for loving us so much. Thank You for knowing our names.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't Be The Cause



Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall. 1 Corinthians 8:13 HCSB
Growing up, I had to ride the bus to school. The ride didn’t bother me, but the Parsley brothers did. They threw paper, smashed sandwiches, and thumped ears. Once, as the oldest Parsley boy thumped my ear, I decided to publicly embarrass him. The next morning, as he was running down the aisle, I tripped him. He hollered, fell to the floor, and smashed his own sandwich. Everyone laughed, he was humiliated, and I was glad. But when I saw his tears, I apologized.
Those of us involved in worship arts have the tremendous responsibility of leading people into the presence of God. Therefore, our actions and words offstage are just as important as our actions and words onstage. Wherever we go, people see what we do and hear what we say. We must be careful not to be the cause of them falling into sin.
Lord, help us to live for You at all times so that we do not cause our brother to stumble.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Not To Us



Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth. Psalm 115:1 HCSB

How quickly we forget what it’s all about. We can get so strategic that we worship so our church will grow, not because He is worthy. But we’re doing this because God is worthy and we want to worship Him. Tommy Walker*

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I have to evaluate my motives for the times of worship that I produce. Do I secretly want people to engage in worship so they will invite all of their friends so that there will be bigger crowds so that everyone will give more money so I will get a really nice raise? Engaging in worship is necessary, inviting friends to worship is a good thing, and bigger crowds and larger offerings are great. There’s not even anything wrong with pay raises. However, when we see these items as the main reasons for worship, something is out of balance. The glory doesn’t belong to us, but to the Lord.

Forgive us, Lord, for the times when we selfishly try to steal your glory.

*experiencingworship.com

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Far



He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.” Mark 7:6-7 HCSB

When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart. Lamar Boschman*

Every weekend, in churches all around the world, Christians gather to worship God. The parkers park, the greeters greet, the coffee brews, the music plays, the teachers teach, the singers sing, the cameras roll, the dramatists act, the videos play, and the preachers preach. However, when all is said and done, people often venture home no different from when they came. Traditions and procedures are followed and services are produced technically without a single flaw, but no one really engages in the worship of Jesus.

When we come together to worship the Lord, we should come prepared to experience the presence of the Lord. We should come ready to engage in worship that surpasses the routines and understanding of men. We should welcome Jesus as our Guest of Honor.

Lord, may our worship always be focused on and indwelled by You.

*experiencingworship.com

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Questions



Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Who should I send? Who will go for Us?” I said: “Here I am. Send me.” And He replied: “Go!” Isaiah 6:8-9a HCSB

If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him. C.T. Studd*

Whenever I read the scripture above, I am faced with questions that demand answers. Here are just a few:

1. Am I really willing to do whatever God wants me to do? What if it’s not fun?
2. Am I really willing to serve God however He wants me to serve Him? What if He wants me to mow my neighbor’s yard?
3. Am I really willing to go wherever He wants me to go? What if it’s around the world?
4. Am I really willing to go whenever He wants me to go? What if it’s right now?
5. Am I willing to follow Him no matter what the cost?

Lord, help us to be willing to do whatever You want us to do however You want us to do it wherever You might call us to go whenever You want us to do so.


*thinkexist.com

Friday, February 19, 2010

Yoke



Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB

It’s an interesting paradox. When we are weary and burdened, we come to the Lord and put on the yoke that He has for us to wear and through that He will give us rest. But a yoke is what oxen wear when they are working in the field. That seems as if we are actually adding burdens and extra responsibilities to our already hectic lives, doesn’t it? Where is the rest in that?

Fortunately, Jesus wants us to put on His yoke so we can live and work with Him. While we want to dump our pile of trash at His feet and run away, He desires a relationship with us where we learn from Him how we can respond to our weariness through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. That is where we find rest.

Lord, Your yoke is best for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Community Project



We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 HCSB

What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful. Mother Theresa of Calcutta*

Like many Christians, Romans 8:28 was one of the first verses of scripture that I memorized after I came to know Christ. It was extremely comforting to know that all things, no matter how difficult, were working together for my good. However, after many years of following Christ, I’m finally beginning to realize that I’ve looked at that scripture from a very selfish perspective. I never realized that the good is for those who love God and not just for the me who loves God. Something I endure may be for the good of someone else who loves God and vice versa. This Christian life and ministry is not an individual test. Instead, it’s a community project.

Lord, thank You that all things work together for our good.

*thinkexist.com

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bright Eyes



Bright eyes cheer the heart; good news strengthens the bones. Proverbs 15:30 HCSB

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Mother Teresa*

People are mean nowadays. They honk at each other in traffic. They yell profane words at sporting events. They say hurtful things to their family members.

People are mad nowadays. You can see it in their eyes. They’re angry. They want others to be as miserable as they are. If looks could kill, there would be dead people all over the highways, grocery stores, schools and churches.

However, smiles are contagious. They are gifts of love that brighten the room and the soul. Bright eyes cheer the heart but they also lift the spirit. Good news is heard through the ears but goes deep down into the inmost parts of the bones and strengthens them.

Some people have gone through terrible things and may not have a smile to give. Give them one of yours. Don’t worry about running out. You’ll have plenty to spare.

Lord, help me to spread Your joy to others through the look on my face.


*quotegarden.com

Sunday, February 14, 2010

We Need Friends



So I stationed people behind the lowest sections of the wall, at the vulnerable areas. I stationed them by families with their swords, spears, and bows. Nehemiah 4:13 HCSB

Steven is my good friend. I sang in his wedding. He ushered at mine. When he developed Hodgkin’s Disease, he called me. When Kathy and I lost a baby to miscarriage, I called him. When the foster child he was trying to adopt was taken from he and his wife, I prayed with him. When I returned to my New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina, he came with me. He’s my good friend.
Nehemiah stationed those working on the wall to stand guard by families. He knew that people needed to be with others with whom they have a relationship. He realized that it is easier for people to overcome discouragement when they know that somebody “has their back.”

Today, remember to make contact with your friends. Remember that God gave you your friends to help you go through difficult times. Remember also that God gave you to
your friends to help them go through difficult times.

Lord, thank You for the friends that You have given me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

All Things



We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 HCSB

God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way. The way we learn those lessons is not to deny the feelings but to find the meanings underlying them. Stanley Lindquist*

The softball was flying straight towards me. I was determined to catch it and make the final out of the game. However, I missed it altogether and it hit me firmly in the face directly above my right eye. I stammered a bit then fell to the ground. Both teams ran to see if I was o.k. Jokingly, I picked up the ball, tagged the batter out, and said, “Hey, all things do work together for the good of those who love the Lord.”

Most of the times in my life, however, I do not joke when I am faced with struggles. I whine and complain when I should be looking for the good.

Lord, help me to remember that You are always working for my good.

*thinkexist.com

Friday, February 5, 2010

Whatever He Pleases



The Lord does whatever He pleases in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the depths. Psalm 135:6 HCSB

I gave in, and admitted that God was God. C.S. Lewis*

After all these years of having a personal relationship with Jesus, I can’t believe that I am still so selfish when I come before Him in prayer. I must seem to Him like some little spoiled brat who runs to Him and says, “Hello, God! I want these three things for my birthday and these four things for Christmas and these two things just for being me!” What must go through His mind when I’m busy praying, “My kingdom come, my will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”

He alone is Lord. He cares about my wants and needs, but it is His purposes and plans that will come to fruition whether or not they are on my wishlist. The Lord can do whatever He wants wherever He wants whenever He wants however He wants. He is God. I am not.

Lord, You are God. You do whatever You want. Help me to always remember that when I am speaking to You.


*brainyquote.com