A Ratty Game

On April 3rd, the Dallas Mavericks played a game against the NY Knicks which started out being what Defensive Coordinator, Jamahl Mosley, classified as “a ratty game”The Knicks plan was to slow the game down against the fast break Mavs and grind it out becoming a slow, methodical, physical, ugly, defensive basketball game.  On the other hand, the Mavs had other ideas of speeding the game up forcing the Knicks to deal with their fast break not the NY ratty game.  Dallas prevailed 99-86.  The turning point was the Mavs willingness to play tough defensively which allowed turnovers facilitating fast breaks.  This forced NY to play the Dallas game rather than the Knicks game.

Sometimes in life we find ourselves in a ratty game.  You may not be getting along with your wife and kids with family life becoming a grind.  No one seems to be on the same page.  What if you are not even living in the same household with your wife and kids?  What if you are in a tough, frustrating, unfulfilling work environment?  There are hundreds of “what if’” situations that seem to be forcing you to play “a ratty game”.  Change your perspective and move it from “a ratty game” and start playing your game as a Christ-follower. 

The Bible says for you to “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:5-9).  How do we change the game of life from playing the devil, the world, and the flesh game? 

  • Start by “humbling yourself” following the guidance of “the mighty hand of God.”  “At the proper time he will exalt you” changing the game to “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
  • Then, Peter tells us to offload the anxieties in your current troubling situation “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 
  • Next, “Be alert and watchful. Your adversary (or opponent) the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  The opponent prowls around making loud attacking noises attempting to paralyze you to separate you from other Christians who encourage, pray, strengthen, and love you keeping you from playing a ratty game.
  • Finally, “resist him, firm in your faith.”  Remind your opponent that “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  He is already whipped!  Also, bring up James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Now, your opponent is on the retreat.

Why play “a ratty game” when there is power and wise coaching in the Word of God and the Spirit allowing you to play “abundantly” (John 10:10) and victoriously?  Colossians 2:15 declares, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  You don’t have to play “a ratty game”.  Jesus “triumphed over the devil and the world by the cross.”  Rejoice in the victory!

Such A Time

This isolation from the pandemic has caused a lot of issues that never made the news. There is the issue of depression from the lack of socialization; there is the issue of family violence from spending too much time cooped up together without an outlet for release. There is the issue of Children not being taught because of computer issues and the lack of one-on-one training.  There has also been a rise in pregnancies, which I’m sure are not ALL planned, even though wanted. In other words, it has changed the face of America. It has caused people to become angry for no apparent reason.  It has opened up a whole new attitude toward Christianity, although I’m sure those who spent their times secluded didn’t open their bibles much. But through all this I want to tell you this morning that God loves you. He has a plan through all this, and His plan is better than our understanding. Don’t you think He just might be hoping that this kind of crisis brings more people to Him?  Wouldn’t He be wanting us to trust Him to lead us through all the times that seem so uncertain before us? But do we? Why are we so quick to complain about this being His doing and not for good, instead of leaning on His grace and His direction to get through it.  I found an encouraging Scripture this morning going through Matthew: “Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known.  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for  a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10: 26:31  So what does this scripture tell us this morning? That all things will be made known to them who seek God’s will, and to desire to listen to Him speak. But what we hear we are to proclaim. We have not been left alone to deal with this all by ourselves. It seems that we have become the harbingers of the truth that we should desire to speak, and proclaim. But how can we do that if we are either not listening, or are too busy blaming God for all that has transpired. Don’t you think it’s time we ask God to forgive us and to use us to bring peace to those who don’t know Him and are living in fear?  Don’t you think it’s time we stop worrying about what will happen to our bodies and think about what our Lord has planned for us at the end of all this?  This is a good day, a day that we can rejoice because we have been given another opportunity to proclaim that which our hearts know to be true to those who are suffering. It’s a good day to look outside of ourselves, and see what is going on around us. Perhaps you and I were brought to this place for just such a time as this. Let’s make the best of it. Pastor Andy

Pitching a “No No”

Last Friday evening, Pam, a couple of dear friends, and I had an eventful experience watching our lowly Texas Rangers team square off against one of the better teams in the MLB, San Diego Padres.  It started off being a boring game until about the 7th inning when the crowd began to understand that Joe Musgrove of the Padres was pitching a “No No” not allowing any hits to the Rangers.  The electricity in the crowd began building batter after batter until the final hitter for the Rangers came to the plate.  Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit a sharp ground ball to the shortstop of the Padres who threw him out at 1st base guaranteeing a “no hitter” produced by Joe Musgrove.  An uninhibited celebration by the Padres ensued in the middle of the field…men behaving in a good way like boys.  We learned later that this was the 1st no hitter ever thrown in the history of the San Diego Padres founded in 1969.  What an experience!

After the game we discovered the catcher, Victor Caratini, had called every pitch and positioned his catcher’s mitt to where the ball was to be thrown.  He took all the decision-making part of the game away so that Joe Musgrove focused only on throwing the right pitch to the mitt.  He executed exactly what Caratini instructed him to do.  The result?  The “1st No No” of all time for the San Diego Padres.

The only way we as believers can achieve perfection as Joe Musgrove, while throwing his “No Hitter’, is to do E-X-A-C-T-L-Y what God instructs us to do in the Bible.  For Musgrove, it was delivering what Victor Caratini signaled.  For Christ-followers it is being obedient to God in His Word.  Joshua 1:8&9 instructs us to, Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  If you learn to “be careful to do everything” as instructed, “Then, you will be prosperous and successful, strong and courageous.” 

In life, you can throw a “No No”. John 15:7 says it this way, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  Remain in Him allowing His words to remain in you, and you will live out the abundant life in a way that will impact your life as well as others.

In John 8:31&32, “Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”  That my friend is pitching a “No No”…perfection.

Do You Blame Others for Your Blocked Goals?

The following devotional has been meaningful to my personal life.  It was authored by Dr. Neil Anderson.  Often in my life I have blamed others for not reaching my goals and have overly reacted as a result.  If you have behaved similarly, read the below:

Ephesians 4:31 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander by put away from you, along with all malice.

Feelings of anger should prompt us to reexamine what we believe and the mental goals we have formulated to accomplish those beliefs. My daughter Heidi helped me with this process one Sunday morning while I was trying to hustle my family out the door for church. I had been waiting in the car for several minutes before I stomped back into the house and shouted angrily, “We should have left for church 15 minutes ago!”

All was silent for a moment, then Heidi’s soft voice floated around the corner from her bedroom: “What’s the matter, Dad? Did somebody block your goal?” She was blocking my goal to get to church on time, but she wasn’t blocking my goal to be the husband and father God wants me to be. The only one who can block that goal is me.

A wife and mother may say, “My goal in life is to have a loving, harmonious, happy family.” Who can block that goal? Every person in her family can block her goal–not only can , they will! A homemaker clinging to the belief that her self-worth is dependent on her family will crash and burn every time her husband or children fail to live up to her image of family harmony. She will probably be a very angry woman, which could drive family members even farther away from her and each other. Her major goal in life should be to become the wife and mother God called her to be. 

A pastor may say, “My goal in ministry is to reach this community for Christ.” Good goal? It is a wonderful desire, but if his self-worth is dependent on that desire being fulfilled, he will experience tremendous emotional turmoil. Every person in the community can block his goal. Pastors who continue to believe that their success is dependent on others will end up fighting with their boards, praying their opposition out of the church or quitting.

Make it your goal to be what God has called Y-O-U to be. No one can keep you from reaching that goal but you.

Plan for Tomorrow but Prioritize Today

Dr. Neil Anderson authors my favorite daily devotional.  Below is a copy of his April 5th “Daily in Christ”.  Allow God to teach and guide as you read:

2 Peter 3:11, What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?

I believe in setting goals and making plans. But biblical vision for the future and godly goals for ministry or work have no value if they don’t provide direction for our steps today. Goals for tomorrow that don’t prioritize present activities are nothing more than wishful thinking. We make plans for tomorrow in order to establish meaningful activities for today. We need to ask the Lord each day if we are still on target and give Him the right to order mid-course changes in direction.

Some people don’t like to set goals because they feel goals only set them up for failure. But a goal should never be a god. It should be a target, not a whip. Other people become obsessed with goals for tomorrow. Biblically, the will of God is almost entirely directed at living responsibly today. Legitimate goalsetting should support that.

“Are you trying to tell us that we aren’t to make any plans for the future or establish any goals for our ministry or work?” No, I’m trying to say that the primary focus of God’s will is that we seek to establish His kingdom by becoming the person He wants us to be today.

Most people want to know what God has in store for them tomorrow. That’s why prophecy has always been a popular subject. Most prophecy teachers know that the critical issue concerning the Lord’s second coming is “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow” (Matthew 6:33-34). Biblical prophecy is given to us as a hope (the present assurance of some future good) so we will have the courage to live righteously and confidently today.

Prayer: Father, help me live in the present and not worry about tomorrow, accepting only Your will and guidance for my future.

What’s Your Part?

There is a reason that Christians congregate. It’s not just because of the socialization aspect of being with like minded people. It’s because God has given those in the church different gifts, to be used together with others all for the building up of the body.  Listen to this Scripture: “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head – Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” Ephesians 4:11-16  Now that sounds like a plan! God’s plan, that we all work together to bring unity from diversity; unity from different gifts, all working together, not to cause divisiveness, but to bring unity by concentrating on the head – Christ.  So let’s think about that the next time we attend church. Often we will look at the church as to what we can get out of it, but shouldn’t we be looking at it from the standpoint of what we can put into it, for the sake of others, doing the same thing? It’s time to get out of our pews of indifference and that place that we go to every week, to sit in the same place, and to not associate except with the few who approach us. Let us approach others with the gift we have been given.  Just think, if we all went to “church” thinking of what the Lord would have us input into it for the sake of others, the church would blossom, and it would become strong, and it would become mature.  We would learn to overlook the differences and see the similarities of faith that we share. Those things pertinent to Salvation and growth.  We must stop majoring on the minor things that reveal our differences, and concentrate on the things that make us alike, knowing full well that we are different but in Christ we are all the same – just different gifts, which are to be used for what? For unity! We should have an excitement to be in church every Sunday.  If you are not excited about being in church, perhaps you are there with the wrong motivation.  Look to the Father! Look to the Son, Look around you and see the adventure that awaits you when you “branch” out and willingly make yourself part of the body.  That’s the church I want to be a part of, and I want you there to share your gift, and to enjoy the fellowship as we worship together, to the praise of our Great God and King. Pastor Andy

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

For years, I lived a shoulda, coulda, woulda life.  “I shoulda done that but didn’t…I coulda done that but made some bad choices…If it hadn’t been for another person or some disruptive event, I woulda done that!”  I felt that I had accomplished way below my abilities.  This mentality did me not one bit of good.  You know what the problem was?  Should, coulda, woulda living is focused on the past which produces guilt, depression and frustration.  As I finally did, throw this stuff off!  The past is the past. Now, get on living Focus on the future living each day for the glory of God not yourselves.  Hebrews 12:1&2 refocused me and changed my life, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”  Matthew 6:27 gave me a kick in the backside, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  Get over it, Rick Evatt, stop worrying about what you didn’t achieve, and refocus on Jesus.  He is saying the same to you.

Paul the apostle states in his candid way that there is no place in the kingdom for shoulda, coulda, woulda living.  Philippians 3:13&14, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Stop the shoulda, coulda, woulda mentality and “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

You may think that you are too old, way past your prime and usefulness for God, or caught up in your own world and feel you cannot get out of your own personal baggage.  That was my mentality until a dear brother, Jerry Reeves, guided me at the age of 50 to refocus and clean up my life using whatever is left of it “fixing my eyes on Jesus.”  There is an amazing passage in Matthew 20:1-16 that challenges you to live the remainder of your life focused on him even if you are way late entering His work.  It’s a bit long but well worth the read, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning, he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So, they went. He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon, he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing? Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So, when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ ‘So, the last will be first, and the first will be last.’”

Jesus gives us no excuses.  No matter the stage of your life or the baggage you are carrying, throw off the shoulda, coulda, woulda and fix your eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith”.  There will be great rewards in heaven if you do!

Push or Pull?

There are people in our lives who are hurt, bitter, fearful, selfish, lazy, resentful, sexually immoral, money hungry, status driven, jealous, addicted, vengeful, miserable, malicious, hateful, and/or angry.  There is a myriad of things that could be negatively impacting those who live in our sphere of influence.  Outside of praying for them, what should we do? Do we push them or live a life that pulls them? 

John 1:14 is a challenging verse, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Living out a life “full of grace and truth” is tough.  There seems to be a tension between the two. 

T-R-U-T-H focuses your heart to do or say something pushing others to make positive changes.  Its focus is “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and/or doing something that guides another.  People who lean toward truth are action, do-oriented, straightforward people whom you don’t ask if you don’t want to know.  To them, it is about “truth”; so “why beat around the bush”.   These folks have to be careful not to be judgmental. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

G-R-A-C-E focuses your heart to love when another might not deserve it.  The acronym for G-R-A-C-E is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Grace teaches us to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   The word for love in this passage is agape love which means a sacrificial love.  Our focus is to be fully aware of the needs of another with a willingness to serve them in an unselfish manner.  Grace is the hands and feet of Jesus.  G-R-A-C-E pulls people to Christ by its actions. Unfortunately, grace focused people become “peacekeepers” reluctant to speak the truth.

When dealing with others as believers, there is no cookie-cutter way of loving them.  We are to be full of truth and grace…truthtellers while serving up grace.  We are to be peacemakers not peacekeepers.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).  “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness (James 3:18). 

To be a peacemaker, you have to be full of truth and grace.  Sometimes, you have to push by speaking the truth in love.  Other times, the focus is to pull people by showing grace, Christ’s loved non-judgmentally.  While dealing with others, always seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit Who lives in each of us.  Let me assure you, He will be more than glad to guide you each step of the way.  Never forget, John 1:14 speaks clearly, we are “full of grace and truth.”  

It Took 39 Years to Forgive

Pam and I are winding up a two week visit of her family in North and South Carolina as well as Virginia.  We enjoyed hearing one story that lasted thirty-nine years full of anger, hurt and bitterness finally culminating into feelings of relief, healing and most importantly, forgiveness.

In 1981, one of Pam’s favorite aunts was divorced by her husband who had an affair with an assistant which led to marriage.  This crushed her aunt who never considered divorce a possibility.  As a result, she developed an unforgiving, bitter heart that affected her daughter, her son, and their families.  The hardness and harshness of her attitude disrupted holidays and special events such as her son’s wedding creating resentment within her family for thirty nine years. 

This past year, her aunt found an old recipe for rice pudding from a great grandmother of her ex-husband that she felt he would enjoy for his birthday.  She handwrote this recipe and gave it to her son who is a fabulous cook.  This was a huge and welcome surprise to her Ex and a great relief and therapeutic for all of her family.  Most importantly, it was healing to Pam’s aunt.  During our time with her there was freshness and a relaxed manner as she talked about her Ex.  SHE HAD FORGIVEN HIM and was no longer tethered to him which is what unforgiveness and bitterness produces.

Some of you are carrying a similar burden towards another.  Please forgive them. If not, you will remain tethered to them emotionally and spiritually until you do.  Most often, this unforgiveness is hurting others also.  Many times, this is devastating to family members.  Hebrews 12:15 speaks accurately in real, practical terms, “15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”  This verse pictures what happened to Pam’s aunt and family.

Please forgive the one or ones who up to this point have been unforgivable.  The person that you have hurt the most is “you”.  Then, it’s your kids and others close to the situation.  You force others to make a decision whom they will side with.  A “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

It took Pam’s aunt 39 years.  Let me assure you that she would tell you to not do the same!  Forgive and watch God’s blessings unfold within you and your loved ones.

Conqueror

Do you want to be a conqueror?  I do! But there are many kinds of conquerors. Those who by force subdue the enemy; those who win over others through intellect; those who through deception lord it over others, and those who use money to become powerful and therefore subdue others.  At least that is what we think about being a conqueror. But what about the conqueror who keeps and obeys the orders of his or her commanding officer?  Interesting thing,  being a conqueror!  You and I can be a conqueror by believing in the power of the Commanding Officer in charge of us. No, I’m not talking about the President, although we are to obey the orders of the President of the United States.  But more so, as believers we are to be obedient to God first, and this is what is told to help us understand our orders: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  Jesus Christ – He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” 1 John 5: 1-6 A very special friend, who has a book written about her life, tells in the book about when she was not a believer and in the military. One of her peers, who was a Christian, was kind to her. My friend made it her mission to destroy this person, by thwarting everything she did and making her look like a fool. However, this “Christian” continued to love my friend, even knowing she was the one who was doing things to get her in trouble. She showed kindness and love whereas my friend showed hate and contempt. Who was the conqueror?  The love of this one toward my friend finally won out and my friend became a believer. She has been serving the Lord faithfully ever since. Good will win out over evil, even when we think we have lost the battle. That’s what God does! That is the love that pours out when the enemy thinks he was won. Nothing can beat the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s not forget that, for we have a wonderful opportunity to show the world Who it is who lives in us.  As I read it; as I hear it through the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, this is the way to be a true conqueror. So join me in being conquerors today. Let the love of Christ rule in your hearts. Let it flow to everyone you meet in spite of how they treat you, because that’s who we are. Pastor Andy