I Love Watching Transformation

My wife, Pam, walked around for years with a right arm that was functionally almost disabled.  Initially, a surgeon attempted to rebuild her shoulder and admitted to her that there was not much that he could do.  She needed to have a shoulder replacement.  After a number of years, she decided to face the pain and undergo a shoulder replacement operation.  Just this past Tuesday, Pam walked in our front door trying to be humble but professed bowling 154 elated with her success.  This is only her 3rd week back bowling after a couple years off.  Currently, she is doing things physically that she hasn’t done in years.  Candidly, I am wondering if Dr. Scotto Quinby implanted a nuclear cell in her shoulder.  The shoulder replacement has transformed her lifestyle.

Jesus wants to do the same things in our lives.  He confounded a Hebrew religious scholar, leader, and elitist named Nicodemus by telling him that “truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:6).  He in essence told this prominent man that every person has a sin nature that makes them dysfunctional in His kingdom.  Jesus told this scholar that his “heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).In other words, “Nicodemus, there is no way that you can work yourself into deserving heaven.”  The great prophet Isaiah describes why, All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (64:6).  Then, he told Nicodemus how he could be transformed, “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).  Jesus candidly shared Good News to this religious leader.  By trusting in Jesus as His savior, God will insert “eternal life” into his heart and transforming him. This would give Nicodemus a personal relationship with the Man-God, Jesus.  By the way, it states in the Bible Nicodemus along with a rich, prominent friend named Joseph courageously asked for the body of Jesus after His crucifixion to bury Him.  This could have cost him his career.  Why did it do this? His life had changed from a man who sneaked to interview Jesus at night to a servant who along with a rich man named Joseph buried Jesus in a beautiful tomb preparing the body themselves.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul the Apostle describes transformation this way, “If any man is in Christ, he’s a new creature.  Behold the old has passed away and the new has come.”  This man named Paul was a violent leader who led the movement to decimate Christianity.  However, He was transformed on a road preparing to destroy Christians in Damascus. He met Jesus and his life was transformed. 

Many of us who profess Jesus have allowed our hearts to get swallowed up in the world.  Don’t forget the challenge in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Personal transformation is a beautiful thing.  Please don’t let the world fit you into its mold.

I was a guy who was buried in depression with little hope until I trusted my thoughts to the truths in the Bible. My mind has been transformed.  He can do the same for you.

Carrying Other’s Burdens

I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  But today is for those who did not have a good holiday for one reason or another. To those who had no family and friends to surround them; those who were far away from home; those who were working or in harm’s way, our policemen and women, our firefighters, our medical workers, those who sacrifice time with their families, for the welfare of others. And today I would like to dedicate this journey to those whose bodies have been insulted by injury or infection. They had a hard time being thankful because of pain and discomfort.  I know you all know someone like that. Perhaps you visited them at Thanksgiving or talked to them on the phone. They may have been too far away to visit. I pray for those like Frank, who is in ICU at this time, struggling, fighting for one more day to stay with family. Scripture tells us this: “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2  James also writes this: “Is anyone among you suffering?  He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. James 5: 13-16   Every time I read this, I have to humble myself before the Lord, because I know that my faith could be stronger.  I trust the Lord with all my heart, but I want to love Him and trust Him for who He is, and not for what He does or does not do for me. But is that faith working or a copout for not being strong enough in my faith to expect the sick one to be healed when I pray? I wished my prayers were more effective. But doesn’t scripture say that they are? The prayers of the righteous person are powerful! Does that mean that my righteousness is lacking? I search my heart for the answer, and the Spirit tells me that I have taken Jesus for granted in many ways. I have gotten comfortable in my faith, and like a sheep, I probably stray away from the presence of the Lord, unconscious, unknowing that I am entering places where I am not to go.  But even if my faith is lacking enough to heal another, I will put my hope in Christ. With whatever grain of mustard seed that I can bring forward, I will hope, and I will continue to pray for those the Lord puts before me.   I know that within myself, I am weak, but I know that the Lord can take this weakened vessel and make it into what He wants it to be. And even though my faith might not be as strong as I would like it to be, I will still pray, I will still place the burden that my brothers and sisters bear before our Almighty God.  Please join me in emptying ourselves before the Lord today on behalf of another who sits in pain and suffering, especially of the family of God, for they are our brothers and sisters, and we are to carry their burdens. Pastor Andy 

My Rights Versus My Responsibilities

Yesterday, in his “Daily in Christ” devotional, Dr. Neil Anderson presents a message that impacts all our lives. It deals with “my rights versus my responsibilities”. It is a “must read”.

Galatians 5:13 

“You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Nothing will distort relationships faster than emphasizing our rights over our responsibilities. For example, a husband may chip at his wife because he feels he has a right to expect her to be submissive. A wife may nag her husband because she expects him to be the spiritual leader. Parents harass their children because they feel it’s their right to demand obedience. Members are offended in the local church when they think their rights have been violated by pastors, boards, or other members.

Any time people insist on their rights at the expense of failing to assume their responsibilities, they are going down to defeat. For example, a pregnant woman may demand her right for an abortion. She says it is her body and she can do whatever she wants with it. Then she proceeds to demonstrate her irresponsible use of her body to everyone! We don’t have an abortion problem; we have an irresponsible sex problem.

In God’s system, our focus is to be fulfilling our responsibilities, not insisting on our rights. Husband, having a submissive wife is not your right; but being a loving, caring husband is your responsibility. Headship is not a right to be demanded but an awesome responsibility to be fulfilled.

Similarly, wives, having a spiritual husband is not your right; but being a submissive, supportive wife is your responsibility. Parents, raising obedient children is not your right; but disciplining your children in the nurture and instruction of the Lord is your responsibility. Being a member of the Body of Christ and of a local church is an incredible privilege, not a right. This privilege comes with the awesome responsibility to behave as God’s children and become a lover of people. When we stand before Christ, He will not ask us if we received all we had coming to us. But He will reward us for how well we fulfilled our responsibilities.

Prayer: Lord, help me relinquish my rights and focus on my responsibilities in all my relationships today.

Trees Walking

Are you currently dealing with a relationship where boundaries are blurred producing insecurities, anxieties, and possibly anger? There may not seem to be a viable, healthy way forward to resolve problems between you. Many of you know someone who intimidates you.  It could be a spouse, child, parent, in-law, maybe a boss or associate, possibly a client. How many of you know another person who is blind spiritually?  Jesus used a metaphor that may help us navigate through these scenarios successfully.

Mark 8 22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”  24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”  25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

“Some people brought a blind man” to Jesus.  There was nothing special about these people except their need for Jesus.

Then, it says these people “begged Jesus to touch him.”  They “begged!”  What a humiliating word…right?!  Whether you like or not, people who begged usually received the attention of Jesus.  Are you genuinely concerned for another person at a depth and intensity that we you are willing to beg Jesus on their behalf?  Are you willing to bring your spouse, child, or any other person before God begging Him to save, heal, or resolve? 

Jesus spat on the blind’s man’s eyes (seems gross but that’s what happened!).  Then, “Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’  The blind man looked up and simply stated to Jesus, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”  He made a confession that His vision was unclear.  How many of you need to openly, humbly confess to Jesus that we see another person as “trees walking” and desperately need to see them clearly?  Allow me to be a bit more intense.  Are you willing to beg God to get us past the stage where others are “trees walking”?  If not, other lives and relationships will remain dysfunctional.

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”  How many of you need a 2nd bit of “spit” from Jesus that allows you to see another person clearly?               

If we continue seeking God intensely, in due time, like the blind man, I believe you will be able to see clearly.  Galatians 6:9 states, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Matthew 7:7 literally is translated, Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and it will be opened to you.” Persistently approach God even begging and you will receive, find and it will be opened. You are able see clearly!

Is Your Home Safe?

Pam and I started working with married couples over twenty years ago.  Along with Dr. Jim Rockwood, Marriage Therapist, we developed a curriculum called Marriage Core.  We started using the word, HOME, as the core to reflect an intimate, safe place.  It did not take long for us to comprehend that HOME is not a safe place to most of us.  With approximately half of all marriages ending up in divorce with most of the other marriages full of unhealthy churn, HOME is not a safe place to the large majority of us.  We were forced to remove HOME and simply started using the word, SAFE, as the core.  The desire of our heart and the purpose of the curriculum was to get families to a place of wholeness and health becoming SAFE.  Most of our homes are far from this.

In James 4:1-3, the brother of Jesus, is candid about this, 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” 

James pictures our family scenarios succinctly. Many of our homes are made up of individuals who are mesmerized by the cares of the world.  When we do not get what we think we deserve, we feel violated and lash out at others especially those closest to us.  HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE.  False perceptions lead us to emotionally destroy others around us.  This is especially applicable during our “season of getting”.  Though written over 2000 years ago, God’s Word could not be more accurate as James declares above, “You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  It’s about “ME, MYSELF, and MINE”!  This very day, our houses are full of people looking after their own interests and punishing others when they don’t get what they want.

Do you want to change the dynamics of your home?  If so, let me give you some quick advice from scripture. Ephesians 4:22 commands, “Husbands and wives, submit to one another in the fear (reverence) of God.”  Placing God 1st., Paul tells us to put the interest of the other before your own.  Make every attempt to be understanding and considerate not quick tempered without anger. 

Relative to our kids, Colossians 3:21 demands, “Parents, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Ephesians 6:4 adds an additional kingdom comment, “Parents do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Be understanding towards your children and not be overbearing.  Continue to teach and be a testimony to them about God.  This starts with parents loving each other before them.  Change the music in your home to Christian music.  Older kids may scream for a while but soon you may hear them humming or singing lyrics. 

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt (wise counsel from God’s Word), so that you may know how to answer everyone,” (Colossians 4:7).  Your home will become safe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

“May Yahweh bless you and protect you; may Yahweh make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; May Yahweh look with favor on you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6: 24-26

I Don’t Have to Wallow in My Stupidity…

I cannot believe it, but I totally lost my temper and expressed anger loudly last evening over a silly domino game. That has not happened in my life for years.  The dear brother, whom I focused my venom, and I reconciled our relationship last evening and touched base again early this AM.  I am assured that we are back in good stead today.  My biggest problem is me. I allowed this to happen in my life and recognize this anger emanated from a sinful heart.  Candidly, I am having problems forgiving “me”.

Let’s take a quick look at anger and what the Bible says about it:

  • Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).  Get anger out of your life.  It is spiritual cancer.
  • “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19&20).  Nothing righteous comes from anger…not one thing.
  • Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Ouch, as I reflect on last evening!
  • A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger(Proverbs 15:1).

According to God’s Word, anger has no place in the life of a person who seeks to live a Godly life. 

As I am restored back into fellowship with the Lord, there are several things to consider:

  • There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
  • When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross(Colossians 2:13&14).  Christ paid the debt of my sin and now because of this, I have no condemnation knowing He paid in total for my sin. 
  • I have learned that if “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  I can walk in Him without guilt. 
  • Now, Jesus desires for me to walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).  The wait of my sin has been lifted off my shoulder as “I walk in the light” enjoying His presence and fellowship.

I did something last night that was stupid, but I don’t have to wallow in my stupidity.  Hebrews 12:1&2 makes this clear, “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.” If you are sloshing around in your own foolishness, go humbly and make it right immediately.

I pray that you, your family, and friends will enjoy each other and most importantly, Jesus, during Thanksgiving Day and weekend!

Presents or Presence

This is the week people are getting revved up preparing to buy presents. Even before Thanksgiving Day is over, stores are opening their doors for the onslaught of gigantic volumes of people “terrorizing” their stores to purchase treasured items with limited supplies and to find “great deals”.  Emotions will be at fever pitch because of long lines and folks jockeying to break in lines without waiting for their turn.  This time of the year has become all about selfish consumption. Television newscasts will feature video clips of people acting like idiots…the more maniacal the better. We are focused on “presents” rather than the original purpose of these “Holydays”, which was to remember and rejoice His “presence” in their lives

Take a few minutes to read then hopefully heed God’s Word about His desire for us to practice His “presence”.  The purpose of mankind in the eyes of God was to become a creature who would fellowship and commune with Him.  Practicing His “presence” creates an intimacy which is so special to God.  I am not talking about the perverted view of intimacy in our world but building “oneness, closeness, familiarity, comfort, confidentiality, warmth, trust, attachment and rapport…to know and be known.”  Let’s see how precious this is to God and how strengthening and “sweet” this is to us:

  • Psalm 105:4, Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
  • Psalm 21:6, For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence
  • Psalm 16:11, You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
  • Psalm 9:3, When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence.  In His presence we are protected.
  • Psalm 95:2, Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! God appreciates our thanksgiving and praise.
  • Psalm 41:12, But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever. A person of integrity is cherished by God.
  • Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God.
  • Psalm 37:7, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him
  • Exodus 24:12, The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”  God invited Moses into His presence and then said wait on me.  From this came the 10 Commandments. Willing to wait on Him is huge in your relationship with Him as you learn to practice His presence.

Let me throw out a challenge which will become a huge blessing to each of us. Learn to practice His presence.  Be patient, learn to wait on Him, and God will be present. Don’t prioritize “presents” this Holyday Season. Focus on His presence.

Toggle Switch On or Off…You Choose

There is a little electrical device that I believe can be a powerful metaphor for our spiritual walk.  It has a long, descriptive, clumsy name…”spring loaded electrical toggle switch”.  This device sits within a circuit.  Once the switch is “toggled” on, the circuit is “hot” and full of power.  Once you let go of the toggle, it is “spring loaded” to move back to an off state with no power.  Doesn’t this remind of us of our spiritual walk?  The user has to be intentional and choose to toggle the switch to “on” depending on God.  The switch doesn’t power up on its own.  God did not create robots when he created man.  He created us with a will to choose to love Him and intentionally be dependent upon Him.  That is sincere love.  Once switched “on” we have amazing fellowship with God.  However, when we focus on the cares and lusts of this world, we let go of the toggle and spring load back to our human, fallen nature living independent of His will.  God designed us to choose.

We as Christ-followers, have to keep the “toggle switch on” by choosing to make decisions from our conscious, spiritual mind based on the Word of God.  The Bible says it this way, “Be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  This passage turns the “toggle switch on and keeps it on”. Activate God’s Word in your life and continue to live according to His instructions.  An intentional life, moment-by-moment choosing to depend on and trust God leads to the abundant life.

Psalms 119:9&11 give us similar forceful instructions, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping watch on himself according to Your word conforming his life to Your precepts…Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  Maintain the “toggle switch” in the “on” position by keeping watch on yourself according to God’s word.  Constantly be aware, watchful, and alert of the lusts of the flesh, anxieties and cares of this world, and fiery darts from the devil.  Don’t let go of the spring loaded switch.

Toggle switch off or toggle switch on…you choose!

The “2nd Thought”

I am a guy who battles depression and recognizes what enters my mind and the subsequent self-talk within my mind is fundamental to my quality of life. In my life experience, the untruthful, hurtful, dark things that enter my mind can be identified as an anxiety generated by cares of this world, a fiery dart generated by the devil, or a lust generated by the flesh.

James, the brother of Jesus, uses lust to explain what happens when one of these enter our minds. James 1:14&15 describes, “Each person is tempted (1st thought) when he is lured (2nd thought) and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” If it is a lust, our flesh is mesmerized by the feelings produced. If a fiery dart, we are deceived and overwhelmed. If an anxiety, we are fooled to believe that we alone are equipped to deal with it, and consequently our unconscious mind takes us to a dark place. In each of these situations, our self-talk acts independently of God which is described by James “as death”.

When a sinful thought enters your mind (1st thought), your “2nd thought” determines the quality of your life. Do not allow your unconscious mind to dictate your self-talk.  Immediately, trust God.  Your “2nd thought” must engage your conscious mind and guide us to His Word. Psalms 119:11 states this clearly, “Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  Literally the word “power” in scripture is the Greek word “dunamis” which is the same word that we derive the word, dynamite. His Word is explosive in our mind and has the power to blow up our unhealthy, dark thoughts. 

Philippians 4:6 is a forceful, pivotal verse regarding our “2nd thought”.  It states for us to Do not be anxious or worried about anything (engage your 1st thought), but in everything (2nd thought) by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.”  Your 2nd thought must continue to take each and every ungodly thought to God. Don’t allow unwholesome thoughts enter your mind then simply allow your unconscious mind to takeover. Engage your conscious mind.  2 Corinthians 10:5&6 commands us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 

Philippians 4:8&9 presents us with eight filters and tells us to “think on these things…and God of peace will be with you”: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…think on these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Once an sinful thought enters your mind, your 2nd thought determines your quality of life.  Throw the lure and deception of the 1st thought off and engage the truths in God’s Word.

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