LIVING ON PURPOSE
A WONDERFUL TIME TO BEGIN BRAND NEW
A brand-new year is here and I’m excited to see what the Lord has for us! Keeping Christ at the center of our thoughts takes a great deal of discipline and determination but so does everything else we really care about. It comes down to how serious we are about knowing God and how willing we are to give him total control of our life. Whatever we become involved with, he simply wants us to listen and obey his instructions which is the reason we are here. If we abide under the shadow of his wings, we will walk in the peace and joy of his Spirit but if we choose to live our own way, we will remain empty and miserable. Matthew chapter 22 gives us the meaning of life, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Actually, the Bible contains many passages where God declares how much he loves us and wants to save us but most of the time we’re so busy making our own decisions that we hardly ever consider the distractions that are preventing us from serving him. In the book of Revelation, chapter two, he’s disappointed with how the Ephesians had left their “first love” and today is a perfect time for us to examine our hearts and think about this important decision. The incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are all about God’s passion to have a personal relationship with us.
At this time of year, we start planning our resolutions and it’s the perfect occasion to start developing spiritual lifestyle changes. You notice I used the word “developing” because drawing closer to God is a process of patience much like losing weight, exercising or any other type of goal in which we are working toward a goal. For example, eating a salad today is not going to automatically fix our weight problem, but it’s a positive first step and the same is true with learning how to become a follower of Christ. There have been many adaptations from the original Al-anon credo that warns everyone to be realistic about trying to change everything all at once because personal transformation is a lifestyle change that will require serious concentration and perseverance. It’s great to have long-term goals and we should release our faith into accomplishing our destiny, but it’s also important to focus on our mission one day at a time. It would be much better to go slow with permanent results than to rush and become overwhelmed with frustration and disappointment. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus” and this reveals a critical truth that no one else can do this for us. Personal change is always between us and God!
A great place to begin would be to dedicate a few minutes each day simply talking with God. Daily Bible reading is another excellent place to give our attention because his words are spiritual nourishment to our soul and will help fill our mind and heart with strength and confidence. A new way of thinking will require courage and a fierce tenacity because our old nature hates to be disciplined and to surrender control. Also, as many of you know, the Christian life is a serious challenge because of the added resistance from the dark side. Long story short; it’s not easy but absolutely worth it! I’ve recorded an 80-minute CD where I narrate over 100 encouraging Bible passages and includes prayers, and several original songs that are filled with hope, joy, and faith. This is an encouraging resource for those who would like to fill their mind and soul with God’s promises. Contact me and I would be glad to send you a free copy. God is always faithful, and if we look at the past year, we will notice that he has been working in our lives even when we did not realize it. This coming year, may you discover the wonders of God’s love and receive the peace and contentment you are searching for. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become brand new” II Corinthians 5:17.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME!
Christ is called Emanuel, which means, “God is with us” and we are so grateful that he came to save us. Yes, we enjoy the nativity and he was once a baby, but he’s not a baby today. He was born, lived, and was willing to be crucified because he loved us more than anything in the world. Whatever you are going through today, be encouraged to know that God wants to be with you and is more than able to take care of you. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty, The All-Sufficient One! Here are seven attributes of our creator that remind us why we celebrate the incarnation and sing, “O come let us adore him.”
1. God knows: God is Omniscient and is fully aware when we are going through difficult times, our worries and fears and even what we are thinking. Actually, He is the only one who really knows how we feel and we can always trust that He has the perfect plan to help us. There are three answers to our prayers; yes, no, and keep waiting, so whatever the situation we can know that he is in total control and always has our best interest in mind.
2. God loves: The love and grace of God is greater than all of our sin. Jesus died a cruel and painful death in order to save us from ourselves. The good news today is that whoever embraces this gospel about God’s love and receives it into their life by faith, can obtain his mercy and be redeemed and transformed into a child of our heavenly Father. Read Romans 8:37-39.
3. God cares: He sees every tear and knows all about the problems we are going through. God wants everyone to believe that he cares about them and desires to be a part of their life. His word promises that his eye is watching every sparrow which allows us to realize how much more he is watching over us. He is sensitive and compassionate about our circumstances and longs to have a close personal relationship with us. “Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you” I Peter 5:7.
4. God provides: The Lord always supplies peace, comfort, joy, or whatever we need, whenever we need it. Jesus can bring what no one else can give and he is always more than enough! We can place all of our trust in God and believe with all of our hearts that He will do above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. Philippians 4:19 declares, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
5. God desires: What is God’s desire? For us to love him and follow his voice. He also wants us to succeed, to be an overcomer and to live an abundant life. When we were born, he designed our personal blueprint and within this wonderful plan includes a possible destiny of victory and joy! He created us to be filled with his power and intended for us to walk confidently in his love and peace. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
6. God heals: Jesus is the great physician and has all power and authority in heaven and earth. He gives instruction and wisdom to doctors; He creates medicines and knows the solutions to every problem. God has the miracle power to take care of all of all our needs including physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Whether in this life or in heaven, we can know that God will eventually heal his children perfectly and completely. In Exodus 15:26 God declares, “I am the Lord that heals you.”
7. God delivers: Whatever the bondage, temptation, crisis, or fear, the King of kings can lift you out of your anxiety and set your feet upon a solid rock. Believe his promises and allow his truth to set you free! Psalm 18:2-3 reminds us, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so, shall I be saved from my enemies.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
OTHERS ARE WATCHING AND LISTENING
Even though it rarely crosses our minds, there is always someone listening to what we are saying. Words are not just meaningless sounds but were created to communicate and most importantly to relay God’s thoughts. They contain the power to influence and persuade the listener which means those who speak are being held accountable for their intentions. Words that are presented from a negative attitude can cause much damage while words spoken from a heavenly influence are filled with life and can bring hope, faith, and encouragement. A wonderful reminder about how we are to guard our communication is recorded in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” We have all been affected by words and realize they had some type of impact on who we are today.
God’s word gives us instructions and insight about the power of words, and how critical it is to be careful and watch what we say. In the third chapter of James, we read about the potential dangers of the tongue. It talks about how we can put bits in the mouths of horses and use a rudder on a ship as a way to manage direction, but controlling the tongue must be disciplined from within. Verse 7 and 8, “For every kind of beast, and of birds, and serpents, and of creatures in the sea is tamed and has been tamed of mankind; but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The tongue is a little member of our body but how quickly it can stir much trouble as many lives have been ruined by allowing their hateful and foolish thoughts to be released. This passage continues to identify the tongue as a “world of iniquity” and like a spark that can ignite a raging fire. For those who know God, our words can be filtered through a humble awareness of our weakness and a passionate desire to walk in God’s character.
Have you ever heard the old saying, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt?” This is probably a paraphrase from Proverbs 17:28 that Sisyphean a fool when he holds his peace is counted as wise and he that closes his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Another old expression is, “Our mind is a garden, our thoughts are our seeds, we can grow flowers, or we can grow weeds.” When it comes to speaking, a good servant not only desires to eliminate judgmental opinions and negative conversations but has a passion to obey and relay what God is saying. I heard a true story the other day, and it convicts me to consider that people are watching and listening and how important it is to respond when God calls.
A young high school student attended a church camp over the summer and accepted Christ as his Savior. When classes started back in the fall, he really wanted to be a faithful Christian and was excited to tell others about his spiritual experience. He was a member of the football team and right before the game he sensed that God wanted him to share his testimony in front of everyone… now. Naturally, he was a little embarrassed and nervously buckled under the pressure. The team went out and won the game and as they returned to the locker room hooping and hollering; he was again feeling a strong urgency to witness how Jesus had forgiven and saved him. He privately asked the coach if he could say something and through the noise and chaos the coach shouted, “Everyone be quiet for a minute!” The boy stood up on one of the benches and told his story about how he had surrendered his life to Jesus. When he finished, the team went back to their wild celebrating. 20 years later, he received a phone call from one of the boys who were on that team. The man had always remembered that night and said those words had played a huge part in him becoming a Christian. He just wanted to call and say that we never know who is listening and how grateful he was for a young boy’s obedience.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
SEARCHING FOR THE ONE THAT IS MISSING
Have you ever experienced times when you were excited and filled with anticipation but after it was over the expectation did not live up to the hype? It’s nothing to worry about because we all have our share of disappointments every now as this is just a normal part of life. Sometimes we even become sad and restless when life is going well which may seem strange but we were never intended to live only by our emotions. When it comes to our spiritual life, the Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength. This gives an internal confidence and peace we can enjoy no matter what we are going through. However, our joy has a tendency to leak out and needs to be re-filled constantly which also explains how easily we can fall away from God and become cold and irritable. If we feel like a grinch and looking for someone to blame, we can always point to the many daily distractions we encounter. Focusing too much attention on the things of this earth while ignoring God is a sure way to become discouraged.
Christians are spiritually connected to their creator and have undergone a miraculous transformation, but this does not mean they are always walking with Him or even aware of his presence. In the old life, we were led by our feelings without any respect or concern with God, His Word, or His people. But when a person surrenders their life to God, the idea is for everything to change including laying down their independence and embracing a lifestyle of trusting and obeying God’s voice. This new identity includes following his decisions and letting go of the things of earth that desire to capture our thoughts and devotion. When any of us fail to have our priorities in the right place we automatically become detached from our joyful excitement and this explains why many are miserable.
No matter how wealthy or healthy we are, this temporal realm is hardly a continuous mountaintop experience. Actually, our existence here on earth was never intended to be a perfect paradise because heaven is an eternal dwelling place reserved for God, his angels, and his people. It may not be popular, but we will all have our share of valleys in this life as they are meant to teach us valuable lessons. By the way, the fear and darkness of the valley do not matter as long as we are holding tightly to his hand. The good news is these sad and difficult places were only designed to be temporary situations. God wants us to learn how to be an overcomer by allowing him to open our eyes and ears so that we can know what he wants us to do.
Since we all have free-will, we have the choice to do whatever we set our mind to and even Christians can make terrible decisions if this is what they really want. Jesus has always realized how easy it is for humans to wander away from him as he tells the story in Matthew chapter 18 about the sheep that become separated from the flock. Christ represents the shepherd and says the good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go search for the one that is missing. How often do we consider that God loves us so much that he is constantly trying to rescue the ones who have lost their way? How easy it is for any of us to become untied from the harbor like a small sailing vessel that is pulled by the strong currents out into the open sea. This reminds me of the old hymn that warns, “You’re drifting too far from the shore.”
Many times when we are busy with shopping and entertaining we can fail to recognize why we feel a sense of emptiness and loneliness. Even when we are surrounded by family and friends and everything seems fine on the outside, we can experience a loss of peace and contentment on the inside as if something deep-down in our soul is missing. This “something” is our personal relationship with God that we have neglected. As we approach one of the most hectic and stressful times of the year, let us take some quiet time to ourselves and think about what is truly important. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all of you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TRUST GOD AND HE WILL LEAD YOU
I’m sure that most of us have dreamed about accomplishing something but discovered that our goal was not going to be easy. Some individuals, maybe yourself, became so determined to succeed that nothing could prevent them from achieving their vision. So, what causes a person to be so passionate and excited about what they love and where do we find this ability to focus and the internal drive to persevere even in the face of incredible resistance and seemingly impossible challenges? Can anyone develop a persistent never-give-up attitude? Is this only for certain individuals whose brains are wired a certain way? Well, we are all unique but I’m also convinced that each person has the God-given potential to unlock success when the excitement of achieving becomes greater than the fear of trying.
We all want to experience a sense of worth and respect, to grow and make a difference through meaningful work, and to live with the joys and peace of contentment. I want to share two simple phrases that I believe can help us reach our goals and encourage us to keep pressing forward. Number one: we must know our source. As a Christian, I believe that we should always acknowledge God as our source and believe he works through us by empowering, enabling, and, equipping us to succeed for him. Since he is the one who is helping us achieve our mission, it only makes sense that he should receive all the glory for whatever we might accomplish. When we reject this wisdom and place our confidence in our own abilities, we are puffed up with pride and wrongly take the credit for ourselves. Consider this passage, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.
Our second point is knowing our direction. Until you know where you are going I can promise you will not get there. When we are surrounded by uncertainty, we can feel discouraged, helpless and alone. Some do not know what they have been called to do while others might have a desire to do something but feel afraid and overwhelmed at what seems impossible. So how can we know our purpose and destiny? Whenever we are trying to find something, it pays to know where to look and in the case of our spiritual purpose, seeking God’s voice is always our answer. Matthew chapter 7 and verse 7 declares, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” What a wonderful word of confidence that we can freely ask him to reveal our direction but unfortunately many suffer from their negative imaginations more than they do from reality. Courage and faith are like muscles that grow stronger the more we use them. Victory is not developed in pleasure and comfort. Only through trials can we learn and grow in wisdom and in suffering can our soul be strengthened. A successful person will find a way to lay a confident pathway with the bricks that others throw at them.
Many of you have the heard the remarkable sports story about a young girl named Becca Longo. In high school, she was a successful soccer and basketball player but also had a desire to play football. The idea to enter into an all-male sport was quite a challenge but to everyone’s amazement and a lot of hard work, she managed to arrange a tryout for her high school team and was accepted solely for her ability to kick. She was very accurate and scored so many points that she earned the attention of the football coach for Adams State University, a division one college in Alamosa Colorado. They offered her a full scholarship which made her the first female in history to earn a football scholarship at the NCAA Division 1 level. This was not a publicity stunt but a legitimate situation where the school needed a good kicker to help them win games. Longo is quoted, “So many people told me I could not play football and I should just stop and give up. Many have asked for advice and I tell them don’t stop just because someone says that you cannot do something. No matter how long the odds, no matter how others may criticize and judge, you must always believe.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TIME DOES NOT SLOW DOWN FOR ANYONE
Growing older is like a train rolling down the track and no matter how many Botox injections, vitamins, or hair plugs, we cannot stop the reality of our mortality. There is nothing wrong with trying to look young and we agree that dieting and exercise would surely be a healthy and positive lifestyle but the hourglass only contains so much sand. As the days keep ticking away, we are reminded to not put off until tomorrow what we can do today because we are not sure how many tomorrows we will have. If you want a big juicy steak for heaven’s sake go have one. If you have thought about helping someone or have a desire to say or give them something, do not fall into the someday excuse and never do it. If you feel a burden to write a letter, make a call, invite someone to dinner, or ask someone to forgive you for something you did or said, by all means, do it today. Delay is a sure way to miss a golden opportunity.
There are certain aspects that I miss from my youth like being free from worries, along with having boundless energy and vitality. Now that I’m older, I cannot see as clear, I get winded pretty easy and sometimes I cannot remember people’s names. I love to take naps and when I watch Jeopardy; the answers are given before I can even think. Then there are the mistakes I wish I could forget. I realize it does no good to live in regret but I cannot help but wonder what could have been. I recall being more occupied with the present than concerned with the future and I can only imagine how much more I could have done if I knew then what I know now. The past is gone and even if I were given a do-over, I would probably make more of a mess than I did the first time. God has always been there for me and all in all, even without winning the lottery, I’m happy with where I am in my journey. Sure, we dream about what we could do with large amounts of money but then we snap back into the real world and realize the most important purpose in our life is our personal relationship with God. As the scripture says in Matthew chapter 16, “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? I am not rich by any means but I am also not poor and there again is the compassionate and amazing grace of our heavenly Father.
As you and I face the prospects of growing older, we will ask ourselves questions like, “What should I be doing now to prepare for a time when I cannot take care of myself?” Along with these practical decisions are also considerations for our spiritual life that speaks bluntly and boldly to the deepest recesses of our heart. Truth does not intend to be mean or cruel but desires to awaken us to the realities and possibilities of purpose. The fact is, without change, you will be then what you are now. If you are not becoming a person of faith, love, and kindness now, you will not be that type of person then. If you are a negative and grumpy person now, you will not suddenly become a positive and cheerful individual then. If you are not learning, growing, praying and developing an intimate personal relationship with God today, unfortunately, you will not walk with him then. We will change when the agony and conviction to be transformed becomes greater than the apathy and contentment to stay the same. Charles Bancroft wrote this comforting poem, “God loves the aged. He gives them greater visions than the young: He puts words of wisdom on their tongue: And keeps His presence ever by their side, from dawn to dusk, and on through eventide. God helps the aged. Within their home, his spirit dwells: Their mellow hearts are touched like chiming bells: He calms their fears, then worries disappear because they know his help is always near. God keeps the aged. With hearts of gold, and silver tinted hair, and earnestness, and greater faith in prayer: He keeps them as a shepherd guards his sheep, til in his fold they gently fall asleep.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GIVING THANKS FOR GOD’S BEAUTIFUL EARTH
Imagine if you were the creator of the earth with all of its breathtaking beauty and gave each living creature the gift of life. For every human, you provided a book of your promises which gives a detailed description of how they are to live. And then, you sent your only son to sacrifice his life and raised him from the dead to redeem the souls of all who would believe. Your invitation to deliver those who would believe from the bondage of sin and welcome them to live with you in heaven forever is beyond words. As you patiently wait for the masses to respond, you notice that only a few individuals actually have a desire to know you and even less are showing an appreciation for your offer. What would you do? Of course, you would be disappointed but you gave them free-will to live however they want. You will just have to let them decide their own path.
Even though mankind has the choice to make decisions, I am relieved to know that God rules on his throne, is in total control, and nothing can keep us from his love. The Bible declares that His mercy endures forever and whether the masses will admit it or not, we are all very fortunate to receive his grace and patience. I was looking through a world atlas the other day with all the many places on our planet that are filled with such awe-inspiring beauty and astonishing creatures. The rainforest of the Congo river basin and the gigantic Sahara Desert that covers nearly a third of the African continent and then on to the wonders of the Oceans that are another astonishing realm of bewilderment. The vastness of nature is overwhelming much like the mysteries of the universe are beyond our imagination and then I noticed the title that said, “Our World” and wondered, is it really? Yes, the earth is our habitation in the sense that we are temporarily camped out here and allowed to enjoy everything it has to offer, but in reality, God is the rightful owner and generously gives us the privilege to be an invited guest. Psalm 24 verse one says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof: the world and they that dwell there.” This statement is quite different from the perspective of many humans who have aggressively staked their claim. It’s remarkable how some individuals actually believe a real-estate deed proves they are the rightful owner without humbly considering who gave them the privilege to occupy and use the resources. How often do we appreciate that each breath of oxygen was created and given by his kindness so that our lungs would not collapse? Every clean glass of water we drink was made by God as a gracious gift to satisfy our body’s demand for hydration. The thermostat for the atmosphere is monitored by his hand in order that we might survive deadly temperature fluctuations and it’s his law of gravity that keeps everything perfectly balanced and in place. Though most humans think they are strong and in control, in reality, we are very fragile and totally dependent on his compassion every moment.
According to the Bible, God is not only the maker of all things but willingly turned mankind loose upon His beautiful paradise even though He realized how uncaring and destructive they can be. He knew that humanity would pollute, deplete, and ruin his masterpiece with their greed and selfishness. Not only would they abuse it, but many arrogantly deny that he is not the author and designer who spoke it all into existence. It is so breathtaking to witness whales and elephants moving gracefully with such wonder and magnificence. The honor to watch a glorious sunrise or to walk along a sun-drenched beach and feel the majestic power of the sea is given for all of us to admire, respect, and be grateful for his love. It’s truly sad when humans declare how the Almighty God is not a real person and that everything we see somehow evolved from nothing. How could anyone not be humbled with a sense of reverence and adoration to this divine architect who is called the Alpha and Omega? “The sea is his and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, and let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” Psalm 95:5-6.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
SOME GAVE ALL AND ALL GAVE SOME
Though I did not serve in the military, I am very appreciative of those who have. I’m very proud of my son who is a marine that spent time in Japan and Thailand. He has a Masters’s degree and served with Homeland Security is now working as a police officer at a Veterans hospital. Neither my father nor his dad were soldiers but on my mother’s side of the family, it is quite a different story. My maternal grandfather fought in WWI and was in France. He was injured in the war and according to my mom; he was never the same. I can barely remember him as a child but do recall a few details like when we would visit, he would greet us at the door making meow sounds like a cat and then he would always peel and slice apples and set them on the coffee table. I ate the apples and laughed at his meows. His wife, my grandmother passed away when I was even younger. They had 7 children, 3 boys, 4 girls, and my mother was the baby. Like many families during that time period, all three sons were eventually enlisted in the military. However, I thought it was even more unique how the father and each son was a soldier in a different war. The dad World War I, the oldest son was in Japan during WWII, the second son was killed in Korea, and the youngest son served in the Vietnam era. I vaguely remember two of these uncles and now realize they both suffered terribly from PTSD. My uncle who was killed in action died in 1950 eight years before I was born.
I wish I had been old enough to speak with these family members about their military experiences. My mother can recall a few memories and recently I contacted the department of military affairs and requested some of their official documents. I received a few things but much of it was difficult to read and some were unfortunately destroyed in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center Archives in 1973. My mom was very close to her brother who never returned and was convinced that he was her mother’s favorite child. His nickname was Kenny and he worked a little part-time job before he went to the war and she remembers he would give her ten cents every Saturday to buy some candy which she really looked forward to. He would also buy his mother flowers every week and she would sit them on the kitchen table. She also remembers the day when military representatives knocked on their door and told her mother that they were sorry to inform that her son had been killed. She ran through the house wailing and screaming no please no, over and over. My mother said it was a terrible time and she can recall her mother going to bed and staying there for weeks.
I currently have the privilege to volunteer as a chaplain at a Veteran’s health care facility and its truly an honor to spend quality time with the many fine men and women who have served our nation’s armed forces. I teach Bible studies and lead worship services with the old hymns which they really enjoy. I’m on call whenever a resident becomes seriously ill and to be with the family whenever someone passes away. I’ve come to accept that many veterans who need constant medical care do not have family or friends to visit them. Many of the older ones have outlived everyone but it’s still sad to walk into a room and not see any pictures or greeting cards. I’ve asked the staff on numerous occasions if a certain resident has had any visitors and they cannot remember the last time someone was there. I’m also a chaplain for a small honor guard team that presents memorial services for military veterans. I open and close in prayer and have been known to sing the national anthem on occasions. I encourage you to set aside some time and visit a veteran. They would appreciate it very much and I promise you will also be blessed beyond words. Veterans day not only remembers those who served our country in the past but also recognizes those who continue to serve today. We share sincere gratitude to all who gave some and to some who gave all to preserve our freedom.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR ME TO KNOW GOD?
I have thought about why many Christians including myself so often find our lives in a lukewarm state of mind much more than we should. To say the least, there are several reasons but actually, these are not considered justifiable excuses. I have regular conversations with my close friends about spiritual living and one thing we all share in common is how difficult it is to stay motivated with our prayer life while maintaining our enthusiasm to resist temptation. I realize everyone’s schedule is filled with distractions and we are busy just trying to keep up with everything we need to do, but when it comes to God, it always comes down to priorities and what we love the most. Of course, we have the obvious enemy called the devil which we do not hesitate to blame for our failures, but pointing our finger and accusing anyone other than ourselves is not really taking personal responsibility for our actions. The truth is, at the end of the day, we do exactly what we want to do.
I recently wrote a short story called, “Living an illusion” that is about an average guy who lives a normal life and then discovers after he passes away that his ideas were not exactly lined up with the way God thinks. It’s a sobering consideration that emphasizes how we only have one existence and one chance to get it right. Once we cross over into the next life, there are no do-overs and no more opportunities. I encourage you to read the story on my website. This reminds me of the next reason why we have a hard time walking close to God and that is we are influenced by a rebellious nature. When we are born, we are blind to spiritual truth and do not have the ability to understand God’s word or the desire to seek after the knowledge and wisdom that we need. This is why we must be born again so that we can be transformed into a new spirit and be renewed in our mind and conscience. We must have the correct receiver and be dialed to the precise channel in order for us to receive God’s signal.
I’m going to be completely honest, the Christian life is hard. With the two powerful forces that I’ve mentioned already, it’s no wonder why we have such a difficult time staying on the straight and narrow. This conflict is commonly referred to as spiritual warfare and I’m sure many of you will agree these battles are fierce and often. Yes, we can have the victory over sin but the idea of the Christian fighting in a literal war means we are an active soldier that is always on duty. If we believe our mission after we have accepted the gift of salvation is laying on the couch and eating ice cream, we can clearly see why we are always feeling like a punching bag. I realize it’s not popular but we’ve been called to pray, study, and fast so that we can build courage and discernment. If we are not equipped with our spiritual armor, using our sword and shield, filled with hope, and dedicated to interceding for others, how can we expect to be a successful warrior? Even more important than all the religious things we say or do is having a personal relationship with the one who gave his life for us.
Most people want just enough of God to save them but not to the point where it becomes uncomfortable or requires something from them. It’s much easier to wade in the water that’s only up to our ankles instead of jumping in over our heads with total dedication and commitment to his will. We are first in line for his help and blessings but not really excited about words like sacrifice, perseverance, and accountability. So, how much of God do we want and how important is it to follow him? I’m reminded how the discipline of participating in sports is similar to the dedication and determination needed to be a serious and effective Christian. Champions work hard and have a vision of who and what they want to achieve which is another reason why most people are simply not interested. A truth seeker is listening, learning and focused on God’s voice and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish their vision. Come to think of it, what is our spiritual vision?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GREEN PASTURES AND STILL WATERS
When we think about living on purpose, it can mean different things to different people. Personally, one of the first aspects that come to my mind is the desire to not only love God and be thankful for who He is but to also love my life and appreciate who I am. This is not to be confused with being arrogant or satisfied about where I am in my journey, but rather it has everything to do with having peace and contentment in our soul as we allow God to change us into his image. It’s true that being honest and willing to embrace the anxiety and the unfairness within our everyday life is painful, but it’s also the only way we can truly become the person God wants us to be. The difficult part of being transformed into this way of thinking is learning how to embrace not just the pleasant events, but also the difficult circumstances. This is a very important part of our spiritual development and a great way to learn how to listen carefully, wait patiently, keep our eyes focused on him, and trust him completely. Alexander Maclaren is quoted, “Only he who can say the Lord is the strength of my life can also declare, of whom shall I be afraid?”
We realize that many of our problems and failures are self-inflicted but there are also times when things happen to us that are not our fault. When we find ourselves in a difficult place, we must believe this season of agony will not last forever. We can know that if we keep walking forward with complete faith in God that eventually our situation will change for the better. As we realize the whole world is not a scorching, relentless desert, but also contains lush jungles, beautiful lakes, and rivers, majestic mountains, forest, and fields, likewise, if you are walking through a dry and desolate experience, I encourage you to stop and consider that your oasis is possibly right over the next hill. I do not know how or when you will walk out of your desert, but the Lord is our shepherd and it’s only a matter of time before he leads you into his green pastures and still waters. An amazing truth is that God wants the best for all of us and of all the promises we can write upon the tables of our heart, we can stand with confidence on the spiritual reality of his endless love.
It’s no secret we all have a certain amount of independence that wants to do things our way. We are always trying to fix our own problems but we can look around and see this does not work out very well. I believe that being honest with God and ourselves is a great place to begin when are trying to figure out how to deal with our troubles. Psalm chapter 94 and verses 18 and 19 gives us this insight, “I cried out, I am slipping, but your unfailing love O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” The idea here is that it’s alright to cry out to God and tell him exactly how we feel. If we are sad, depressed, tempted, angry, or whatever, we can just pour out our feelings to him anytime. He listens to us, he sees our tears and knows exactly what we are going through.
Actually, God is the only one who can help us when it comes to healing and deliverance. Others can pray and help comfort us, pat us on the back, and maybe offer a tissue, but another person cannot catch us when we are falling into a state of discouragement or rescue us when we are drowning in misery. When we have lost all hope, God not only has the power and authority to forgive us and redeem our soul but he is also waiting to open our eyes, give us courage, and keep us safe until the storm passes. “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” Psalm 91:1. It gives us hope and comfort to know if we should ever collapse under the weight of our burdens, his love and mercy will always carry us to safety. Remember, he who created us is more than able to take care of us.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A SPECIAL LOVE FOR GRANDCHILDREN
It seems like yesterday that my Son and Daughter-in-law announced they were going to have a baby and today I am declaring to the world what a wonderful miracle has happened. The joy of this news was beyond words and the anticipation grew every week until our grandson has now finally entered the world. I remember seeing him for the first time and must admit, this little man has absolutely captured my heart. He’s not even six weeks old yet and I am thinking about him all the time. We love to buy him toys and clothes, and I’m already planning the things I want to give and experience with him. I realize that everyone who has grandchildren feels this overflowing fountain of love and now I’m understanding these emotions for the first time.
When my wife and I were young parents, I did not comprehend when people would tell me how exciting they were about their grandchildren along with the never-ending slideshows of pictures. I get it now. They are beaming with pride and thanksgiving and want the whole world to see these beautiful individuals that have no limits to what they can do or who they can. Lately, I’ve found myself repeating the exact same comments I have heard others say all of my life. Things like, “he has long arms and legs, probably going to be a basketball player” or “he is so alert, I know he is going to be very smart.” I am captivated with a love that will provide unlimited cuddles and kisses, an endless supply of cookies and candy probably not pay attention to bedtime curfews, and always have time for one more story.
There is so much I want to see and know about his life. I want to encourage and inspire him and talk with him about everything and share what I’ve learned about the mysteries and joys of this life. At the same time, this relationship reminds me of what a serious responsibility I have to be a good role model, to demonstrate and help point him in the right direction to the best of my ability. I remember when my children were small, I would tuck them in at night and pray over them because I wanted God and his angels to protect them from harm. I would also ask the Lord to give them wisdom and favor and to bless and help them in their decisions and opportunities. I feel the same fervency for this next generation as I will also intercede for this young man as he explores and searches for his place in this world. Most of all I will pray that he will know God and have a special relationship with him and that he will grow up to be a man of integrity and honesty, a good son, and eventually a good husband and father. I hope I am around long enough to be a special part of his life and to watch him develop into the man God has called him to be.
I remember my grandfather and how much he meant to me as a little boy. I can still hear him singing little songs about me that he would make up and how special it made me feel. I was the first grandchild and I remember how my grandparents would grab me and hug me every-time they saw me and I know they were filled with joy and love for me. When I was about eight years old, I started spending the weekends with them and it was so much fun. They lived way out in the country and to a small boy this environment was an enchanted place filled with adventure and exciting new experiences. They are gone but those moments are still in my heart and now I’m so looking forward to making new delightful memories together with my grandson. As I close with a poem by Teri Harrison, I am united with all the other proud and grateful grandparents who since the beginning of time have enjoyed this great honor. “I stroked your little hand, perfect sweetness as we touched. I whispered that I loved you…loved you so very much. I held you close to me, memorized your darling face. I’ve waited so long, my heart now touched by grace. As papaw and grandson, an amazing journey has begun. You’re my heart, you’re my joy, my precious little one.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
PRAYER CAN BRING SPIRITUAL AWAKENING
When we consider the word revival and more specifically within the Christian faith, we think of a series of evangelistic meetings with the intention to increase interest in God. If we look more closely, we notice that being revived is the act of being restored and renewed back to a former place. Other words that are associated with being revived are, reinvigorate, revitalize, refresh, restore, energize, rejuvenate, regenerate, and stimulate. Within the context of our spiritual life, we see that a personal revival is a positive experience that causes us to rearrange our priorities in order to give God a higher place in our life. This stirring of the soul brings a fresh awareness and rekindles the desire to follow the Lord with a renewed zeal and deeper commitment. If we once had a genuine and exciting relationship with God but now for some reason we have drifted away, our intimacy with him can be restored by humbling ourselves and calling upon him. We do not need to attend a church meeting in order to repent or draw closer to Christ, we just need a passion and determination to be with him.
Through the years, there have been some very powerful spiritual movements recorded in places such as China, Korea, India, Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia. These movements have not only generated interest in Christ and the Bible but has helped spread the gospel into areas where individuals were introduced to Christianity for the first time. One such example of a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America was the New York City revival of 1857. Theologians and historians agree this revival changed the minds and hearts of many people and helped establish a spiritual awareness at a time when the interest in God was declining. There are several names given to this manifestation such as The Fulton Street Revival, Union prayer meeting, The Third Great Awakening, and The Layman’s Prayer Revival just to name a few. The years leading up to 1857 were defined by tremendous economic development as the United States was reaping a bountiful harvest of prosperity. As wealth became the focus, the desire and obsession were turning toward materialism. Unfortunately, the younger generation was growing up without a reverential respect for God and the Bible and were also becoming captivated by the love of money.
While church attendance falling, many congregations moved out of the city to accommodate their remaining members. However, one church in Manhattan decided to stay in the inner city and make themselves available to those in the surrounding community. They hired a man named Jeremiah Lanphier and as a minister and missionary to lead this evangelistic vision, he proved to be a man of prayer and an effective and enthusiastic speaker. Lanphier had a burden for souls and immediately began to visit homes, distribute Bibles and tracts, and preach the gospel. It was a slow start and with being somewhat discouraged, he found peace in his personal prayer time and sensed that he was being directed to begin a daily time of prayer for all who felt the need to find some quiet time with God. He advertised all over the city for men and women to slip into the church and focus on God and to call upon his mercy for a great spiritual awakening even if it was only for 5 minutes.
That very year, there was an economic disaster that forced many people to lose their businesses. Banks closed and over 30,000 people lost their jobs in that city alone. There was also much tension over social issues as talk of a Civil War was growing stronger. Before long, the prayer meetings had become so large the church could not hold the crowds, so new ones were started in other churches and public buildings all over the city. According to eyewitnesses, within a few months, it was estimated that over 10,000 people were attending these daily gatherings and it did not stop in New York, as a great wave of excitement began sweeping across the country in places like Cleveland, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. A simple prayer turned into a massive revival which became one of the greatest spiritual movements since the reformation. It’s estimated that in the period between 1858 and 1859, one million people were converted from a population of less than 30 million. Like many of you, I believe in II Chronicles 7:14 and that our nation is in desperate need of a spiritual awakening.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TRYING TO FIND OUR PLACE IN THIS WORLD
As we are noticing in our ever-changing world, when one person is offended over something, the new social acceptance solution is to stop what we are planning and allow that individual to change or prevent the desires of many. It now appears that new rules of order are being established with the supposed intention of not offending anyone. I understand the idea to try and accommodate everyone with whatever they believe but since we are trending toward a puzzling destination, I’m troubled that our culture is losing an understanding of right and wrong. I was raised with the idea that it takes a voting majority to make decisions and this seems simple enough, however, our world is now becoming more complicated and focused in the quest to be socially and politically correct. Some will say this way of thinking is not what it appears and is actually based on a one-sided agenda to muzzle certain views while promoting others but whatever the case, our lives are being impacted.
I am a certified fire chaplain and a faith-based member of our state emergency crisis response team. This is a government agency and even though I am recognized as clergy, there are boundaries given to me such as not being allowed to randomly pray for those who are traumatized and especially if I intend on acknowledging the name of Jesus. I am also a volunteer chaplain for a veterans health care facility and again, I am limited with my intervention and continually reminded to restrain from using the name of Jesus because of the diversity in the resident population. The laws of correctness have developed to the place where I would not be surprised if all prayer will eventually be banned in the public domain. We have already seen prayer and the Bible removed from our education system and there has even been a strong attempt to remove “one nation under God” from our pledge of allegiance. Based on what we have witnessed in the last 50 years, we know this agenda to eliminate public displays of religious expression will continue.
As Christians, we are called to follow the example of Christ in all that we do and we notice he was never intimidated by what people thought of him. He continually declared that his purpose was to obey what his father wanted and that was exactly what he did. How was he treated? People wanted his blessings but the government and even the religious world did not care for his dogmatic messages. Recently, I was asked to open in prayer at a horse racing track as a part of an honor presentation for veterans. There was a color guard with various members of the armed forces, the national anthem, a live bugle rendition of taps and all the activities were to be simulcast around the world. When the opening ceremony was posted on the website, a horse racing family who lives in another country, called and said they were offended because it mentioned the day would open in prayer. So, in order to appease this family, the owners of the track called and told us there would be no prayer. After a week of conversations, the organization did agree to allow a prayer but only if I would promise to not mention the name of Jesus. Everything worked out fine and we were still able to effectively represent God and honor the Veterans. Yes, of course, it’s disturbing to know that our freedom of speech was stepped on but even more important is the concern of where our religious liberties are heading.
I realize it would be impossible for everyone to agree on everything, but do you believe crucial decisions should be changed or canceled whenever one person disagrees? It’s true we all have the right to protest, but since arguing accomplishes nothing except stirring and increasing more strife, should any group of people who want to express their convictions be stopped because someone objects? Should we as Christians fight against the world for our right to be heard and are we called to protest against others who do not believe like we do? I don’t think so. Number one: political and religious decisions will be controlled by the government which are decided by the masses. Number two: we should love and respect everyone but our personal dedication and ultimate mission is to obey God.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A TIME TO ASK AND A TIME TO LISTEN
Sometimes life is so difficult that we can barely keep it together. All of us have faced serious trials and for those who are Christians, we have appreciated the comfort and peace of God’s presence. As wonderful as this is, we are still often left with unanswered questions and painful wounds that live in the secret depths of our soul. Yes, we have friends and family members who try to encourage us and we listen to suggestions that try to explain why things happen, but in the back of our mind, we are reminded that we actually understand very little. How many times have we heard that listening to God is not easy and how difficult it is to differentiate between what he is saying and our own thoughts. I find it interesting when our life is rolling along without any problems, we do not seem to be concerned with his advice or suggestions. But when we are facing a serious crisis and desperately crying out for answers, we are begging for him to intervene. Even though the Bible is filled with scriptures that encourage us to listen for his voice, we discover he is not like a radio where we can just turn the knob and hear him explain why this is happening. So, why are we still in the dark about certain events? It could be that we are forgetting some important principals within the context of our natural and spiritual reality.
Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”To many people, this brings up an uncertainty about how to seek God and if we are we doing it correctly? Rest assured dear brother and sister, it’s normal to feel perplexed and fainthearted when we are knocked off our feet. We are made of flesh and blood and most of our considerations are based on our emotions. Humans have amazing mental capabilities but are also very vulnerable when it comes to being led by their feelings which is usually not a help in our time of need. In order for any of us to comprehend what God is saying, we are reminded in the first chapter of Romans that as a part of our born-again experience, our mind must also be renewed and transformed into his way of knowing and understanding. We no longer depend on our reasoning but learn to trust his plans for us.
As followers of Christ, many of us will spend the rest of our lives trying to listen and discern the will of God for our life and for situations all around us. The extent of our success will depend on how serious we are about it. Whatever the level of interest, we can agree that if we desire to hear from the Lord it would be wise to place this subject up at the top of our priority list. I keep prayer journals and believe we can simply ask God to reveal what he wants us to do in order that we might know his will. Of course, there is more to hearing God’s voice than just asking him to make it happen and by the way, miracles do not always happen automatically. It’s each individual’s responsibility to pray and ask forgiveness every day so that we can live holy before him, and then we must have patience as we wait for him to respond. The Lord promises in Jeremiah chapter 33, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not” but it will take perseverance, desire and determination to develop this level of self-discipline and spiritual awareness.
When we are troubled about something we should not be intimidated or afraid to ask for clarification. There are times when we might need to fast and spend some time away from everyone so that we can hear the Lord more clearly. It’s good to also remember that God has infinite power and we should not limit his abilities. Yes, he is compassionate about a failing air-conditioner but He is more concerned about molding us into his image and for us demonstrating his character. Prayer is not just a one-sided conversation where we do all the asking but rather a beautiful part of our intimate relationship where God freely speaks and intervenes. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
UNITY IS BEAUTIFUL BUT VERY RARE INDEED
Have you noticed lately that conflict and disagreement are more abundant than unity? Though the average person would give peace as the answer to what they would like to have more of, weare bombarded with an environment that is filled with arguing, strife, and criticism. It even seems that some people actually enjoy fighting and bickering as a challenge to see how many disputes and quarrels they can instigate and win. Wouldn’t the world be such a happier place if we could all just get along and try to focus on what is good instead of being constantly critical and judgmental? We are reminded of the passage in Philippians chapter four and verse eight where Paul states, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The writer realized that our minds are highly vulnerable to receive and expressnegative influences and is trying to explain that we would be much more happy and relaxed if we could learn how to be less condemning and more optimistic. I know, some of you strongly disagree.
So, as we are surrounded by an ocean of disagreements, who has the wisdom and authority to know what is right and wrong? Every political, philosophical, and religious group on the planet will step forward and acknowledge they possess the absolute truth which has now increased the confusion beyond comprehension. As the world ponders about universal correctness, we are hearing more about how truth is relative to each individual. This suggestion proclaims there is no such thing as absolute truth but rather is a personal conclusion. On the other side of the fence, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the absolute truth, the purpose and meaning of life, and the Bible has been given to mankind as our spiritual compass and instruction guide. Of course, there are many who will disagree.
So, with all of this arguing and strife, are Christians directed to enter into this battle? If Jesus were here today, would he be an outspoken, aggressive political activist? I don’t think so. As a follower, I’m convinced we are called to demonstrate his character more than we are commanded to tell everyone how they should live. Christians are encouraged to promote unity as we read in I Peter chapter 3, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult” also in Romans chapter 12, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”Why is this important? Because when Christians climb into the ring to fight against something they disagree with, they are exchanging their spiritual authority for a destructive attitude ofcarnality which can easily develop into resentment and hatred. We are tempted to disregard God’s warning about wrestling against flesh and blood but unfortunately, our arrogance would rather go to war on the battlefield than go to war on our knees. Whether a Christian or not, ourfleshly nature is filled with denial and ugly emotions but I’m sure many would disagree.
The gospel is relaying the love story about Jesus being born, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead. This message is all about God offering to transform a conscience and redeem a soulfor those who decide this is really what they want. So, instead of Christians arguing, criticizing, and harassing people about their views and lifestyle choices, we should just quietly demonstrate the character of Christ and pray that we will follow only what he is telling us to say and do. This includes letting go of the idea that we are somehow going to persuade or convince someone elseto dedicate their life to God. I will make a statement here that some might consider a little on the pessimistic side but the majority of people on this earth will never accept Jesus Christ or come together in unity with those who do. Christians believe that God is everyone’s judge, has all the answers and the only one who can give us the peace, joy, and contentment we are searching for.However, yes, you guessed it, the majority of people on this planet disagrees.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ALLOWING GOD TO CHANGE OUR PERSPECTIVE
Decisions are a part of life that we face every day. With everything from what we will wear to purchasing a new washing machine, our choices contribute as key components of our success and failures which are also directly connected to our peace and joy. Sometimes we are strongly influenced by the mesmerizing sparkle and emotional excitement that pulls us into a hypnosis and this crossroad can be a dangerous place to make a long-term commitment. It’s also common to experience regret after making a decision that did not turn out like we thought it would and is a discouraging environment especially if we conclude there is no reasonable way out. For example, it would be miserable to buy an expensive sports car and then discover its uncomfortable to drive and is consistently breaking down with outrageous repair costs. Even more deflating would be to realize no one else wants it and we owe more than its worth.
We can go down the list and see the many different areas of life where people are disappointed and feel hopelessly trapped. Things like a huge house mortgage that is more like a ball and chain than home sweet home, a boring job they dread every day, or maybe a relationship where they feel like they made a mistake. Whatever the case, we do not have to search very far to find individuals that have learned how to fake a convincing smile while behind the mask there is much disappointment and agony. So, if a major part of our happiness and contentment depends on right decisions, how can we improve our selection process from this point forward? This is an important question because we are talking about our mental, emotional and spiritual state of being and it will take more than a horoscope or a fortune cookie to help us.
Some may be thinking that life is similar to rolling the dice and taking random chances as the only option any of us have, which is the old, “you win some and you lose some” philosophy. This hap-hazard attitude might be the way a non-Christian operates but it’s not the way God intended for His people to function in this life. The Lord is always offering His compassion and power but is sometimes hesitant about fixing our problems until we are ready to follow His instructions. How many of you have ever stood in a crossroad desperately trying to decide which way to go? You may have ventured out and tried with all of your strength to do something and was left wounded when the doors were slammed in your face. Yes, disillusionment makes us feel sad and sometimes can stagger us like a hard punch in the nose but it certainly does not mean we are finished by any means.
Within the two camps of thought between God’s sovereignty that desires to manage our affairs and our free-will that makes us responsible for our own decisions, we can find a perfect balance. I believe we have the freedom to select and make choices but I also feel strongly that God can intervene however and whenever he wants. Have you ever considered that maybe the Lord did not open a door that you were pushing on because he knew there were dangers on the other side that would harm you? Remember the old saying, “thank God for unanswered prayers?” When things do not work out as we planned, maybe we should stop and at least consider that possibly we are being protected from further heartache and discouragement.
Christ invites us to ask for wisdom, to pray, study and research the situation thoroughly before we continue forward because there is no excuse for not listening to his advice. Be cautious and remember that when things seem to good to be true, take your time, analyze the details carefully and pray about it. Yes, God does open doors and can guide us into amazing blessings but it’s usually as a result of us being spiritually prepared and having the right attitude. Life is what we make it and many times we are more unhappy with ourselves than we are with other people and all of our stuff. When we learn to depend on God for everything, He fills us with joy and peace and this will always change our outlook on life.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHEN WE ARE TEMPTED TO WORRY
As much as we would like to avoid worry, and anxiety, these feelings are just a normal part of our natural emotions. When I say “normal” I’m referring to the everyday aggravations and frustrations that are a part of this journey. Some people seem to be more controlled by these feelings than others but we will all have our share of difficult times. I’ve thought about whether the world we live in today is more hectic and stressful than the times of our parents and grandparents but is it the external circumstances that cause a person to be overwhelmed or the lack of internal peace? Even though the situations are different, apprehension and panic would be the same for a caveman or a business executive. However, I’m also convinced that Christ never intended for us to be constantly stressed out to the point of living in discouragement and depression.
There have been many studies about the effects of stress and its now confirmed that constant worrying has a negative impact on our mental, physical, and emotional well being. Our Creator is very much aware of how we are “wired” which is why he gives us many scriptures to help us understand how to deal with stress. God emphasizes the importance of trusting him throughout the Bible because he knows that when we have faith in his power and ability, we can relax and enjoy the peace of knowing he is in control. One of the most relevant passages about trusting God is found in Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” This sounds like a wonderful alternative instead of allowing ourselves to become twisted into knots, but it’s not that easy. Since worry comes from our mental imaginations, we must realize that walking in faith will call for us to discipline our mind.
As the above scripture implies, trusting is a decision. Each person has a choice to ignore the Lord and worry themselves sick or to let it go and give it to God as a way of depending on him to take care of it. If we acknowledge the situation is beyond our ability to change, why would we believe that the one who has all the power in heaven and earth cannot give us a miracle? The Lord loves us and wants us to bring him our burdens and problems but we must also believe that he desires the best for our lives. Worry is the opposite of faith which means if we are worrying we are actually hindering this process and becoming our own worst enemy. Once we learn these spiritual principals, we can develop our faith and grow stronger in our confidence and relationship with him. Another important thing to remember is that we do not need to micromanage God. When we turn our problems over to him, we can rest in peace. We do not need to know how he is going to solve the issue, or when he is going to do it. We just need to remind ourselves that he always knows exactly what to do. He wants us to trust in his love while we are waiting for him to accomplish his perfect plan.
I want to leave you with two things to consider as you continue moving forward. Humility is a word that is not very common these days but very important when we are approaching the Almighty. There are many reasons for us to have a humble attitude and one of them includes the realization that we are weak in our own power and there are times when we just cannot fix our own problems. Be honest with the Lord, tell him you desperately need him and do not be ashamed or embarrassed to come before him in reverence and appreciation. Another critical component is to guard your conversation against producing negativity. It’s much better to not say anything than to talk about how hopeless your situation is. As you pray and share your heart with God, make a personal decision that you are not going to cancel out your faith by making pessimistic comments. A positive confession would include declarations such as, “It doesn’t matter what it looks like, I trust and believe God is working on it!”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
EVERY PERSON CHOOSES THEIR OWN PATH
I had a serious conversation the other day with a middle-aged man and we talked for a couple of hours about God. I’ve known him for years and we’ve had these discussions before but I noticed he has become stronger in his opinions which by the way are based on atheism. He is a likable person, hard worker, a great husband and popular. He is also a very talented artist and sculptor and concentrates much of his art work on the dark world of the supernatural. He has studied Greek mythology and loves any type of art work about this subject and is also very much into modern superheroes or any type of figure or being that has special abilities and powers. He collects books, posters, paintings, sculptures, comic books, and creates incredible statues of these creatures and has a waiting list of people around the world who want to purchase his work. I’m glad that he is gifted and successful but of course, concerned that he will not consider the one who has all power and authority and is the creator of all things.
I know from our past conversations that he was not raised with any type of religious instruction or influence and never even entered a church until he was married in one. He loves history and has read about spirituality and has come to the conclusion that religion has always been used as a way to calm the masses and distract them from the discouragement and suffering of being controlled by tyrannical governments. To be honest, I’ve not really known that many atheist and as a Christian minister, I find it disturbing to hear someone say they believe God is nothing more than a figment of the imagination. He goes on to say that everything we see and know came from nothing and the Bible is just a storybook filled with fables and legends. He is also strongly convinced we are not spiritual beings and there is no such thing as an eternal life after this one. Of course, in between all of these statements, I spend a considerable amount of time explaining what the Bible says all the while realizing that I am using a resource that he does not consider reliable. Even though he has made up his mind against the Almighty, I also have faith and believe that with God no situation is hopeless and anything is possible.
I understand that God has given every person the free will to believe whatever they want and as we look around, we can see that people have definitely taken Him up on that. In today’s world, it’s becoming more common to hear people say the Bible is not true and that all the thousands of gods and religions in the world are all the same. I’ve walked with the Lord for much of my life, and have come to the realization that we cannot change someone’s mind. We can relay God’s message and demonstrate his character, we can pray and confess that God will intervene, and we can hope the Holy Spirit will influence and persuade an individual to consider turning to Christ but the rest is in God’s hands. The gospel of Jesus has the power to convict the human conscience and stir the soul but ultimately each person who hears how God so loved the world that he gave His only son to be crucified and save us, will either choose to accept His offer of salvation or walk away from Him. The individual who embraces the God of the Bible becomes a Christian while those who reject him have simply made the decision to acknowledge an alternative idea and follow another path.
I could fill the entire newspaper with reasons why everyone should become a follower of Christ but I know there are others who could also do the same about their own worldviews. I could tell stories from the Bible and I could share about those who were once unbelievers and have now miraculously turned to God and are excited, grateful, and filled with joy and peace. But you know, I’m not really thinking I can make anyone love God and like I said, I certainly cannot spiritually redeem or save anyone. In all honesty and sincerity, I just want to communicate about God’s infinite love for all of us and will pray that someone will want to know more about Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
NOTHING CAN KEEP US FROM GOD’S LOVE
Memories can be a wonderful place to visit when they are pleasant and filled with peace and joy. On the other hand, not all of our experiences have been good and can be more like a haunted house on a dark and stormy night. We all have our collections of thoughts and our own task of trying to figure out a way to deal with them. As most of us know, there are positive ways and negative ways to handle our past experiences. We can look around and see that many people are not doing such a good job when it comes to emotional management. The Lord wants us to give our problems to Him and allow Him to bring true healing as His way is always the best way.
Some will say, “you have not walked in my shoes” and this is very true. However, this does not mean the light of God’s love cannot bring you comfort, forgiveness, and happiness. His promises are true and cannot fail which to say the least is a tremendous offer to consider. His love, mercy, and hope is available to anyone who has the faith to believe that He can transform our disappointments and stumbling blocks into victorious stepping stones. In Psalm fifty seven, we read where David is in great danger and is hiding in a cave to escape the wrath of Saul. However, even in this dark hour, we notice in verse one he is singing God’s praises, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until this difficulty and burden has passed” Psalm 57:1. There are many different types of trials and sorrows, but God’s arms are always open to those who trust Him.
Maybe you were the one who was always picked last for games in gym class or in the neighborhood. Maybe someone spread a hurtful rumor about you that caused you much pain and distress. There are many individuals who for whatever reason have a non-existent relationship with parents or children which is very painful. Some have been betrayed by a person they loved very dearly and are deeply wounded in the depths of their heart. Have you ever felt forgotten, alone, and unwanted? Sometimes discouragement punches you in the gut and then slowly dissipates and then there are times when the voices that tell you no one cares seem to hang over your head for weeks or months on end. Whatever the situation, even if you have made huge mistakes and hurt others, God wants you to know today that He cares about you more than you can imagine. Since you were in the womb, He has never taken His eyes off you. He knows every thought, seen every tear and wants a personal relationship with you more than anything.
I remember years ago watching a family member make fun of his nephew who was just a kid. At birthday parties, family dinners, cookouts or whatever, the attacks were meant to be a joke for everyone’s entertainment and laughter – everyone except that young boy. The boy grew up and now does not call or come around at all. I wonder why? I also heard a testimony one time from a young woman who shared about her painful childhood experiences with an uncle. He would always tease her for being so skinny and say derogatory comments about her body. Sadly, these rude and tawdry remarks are the only words she can ever remember him saying to her. I’m sure it never crossed his mind how this made a self-conscious adolescent girl feel. She went on to say this definitely had a negative impact on her self-esteem and later in life when he passed away she felt distant and numb as he seemed like a total stranger. Within our disappointments we can know that He will never hurt or abandon us and nothing can prevent His love from healing our mind and soul.“No, in ALL these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-38.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
FOLLOWING GOD’S PLANS AND NOT OUR OWN
The more we venture out of our comfort zone and look around in this great big world, the more we will run into people that are hurting. Yes, many of us are blessed and some of us have led sheltered lives, but if we desire to become more sensitive to those around us we will notice there are individuals that have not had it so easy. There are so many places to serve and so much desperate need that sometimes it seems overwhelming. As a community chaplain, I am surrounded by disturbing situations and within my personal writing and music ministry, I am constantly being approached by those in this country and around the world who are crying out for financial assistance. Like you, I have concern and want to help everyone, but there is only so much we can do. It’s our responsibility to pray for everyone, but also critical that we listen to God’s response and react according to His directions. When we turn away from considering the burden of human suffering, this coldness turns our prayers into a private bless me confession and reduces the big picture of the world’s needs into a tiny peep-hole that is easier to ignore. I realize it’s more comfortable to live in denial, and only focus on our desires, but is this truly following Christ? We read about selfless individuals like Mother Teresa that abandoned her life so that she could help others, and we recognize she not only had a compassionate heart but was actually willing to sacrifice her plans in obedience to God’s voice.
With God’s perspective, it’s not how many good deeds, how much money we give, or how much a person accomplishes, but it’s all about us knowing what He is saying and then being obedient to His instructions. In Mark 12:43-44, we read the account of the poor widow that contributed two cents into the church offering while some of the wealthy members were donating large amounts of money. Jesus was watching and made a very interesting comment, “And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in ALL that she had, even all her living.” The old saying, “things are not always as they seem” comes around on a regular basis and when we are sensitive to recognize what is happening, we can begin to understand the deeper meanings of life. The widow realized that her two cents were not a significant amount but instead of being discouraged or embarrassed she stepped forward in faith because she heard God’s voice and was expressing her love and worship to Him as an act of obedience. This is an example of why we are encouraged to develop our spiritual awareness so that we can be equipped to comprehend God’s divine reality. In Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord is gracious to explain, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
When it comes to our ideas about giving, it’s important to realize that God is not always impressed with what we think. Our old nature has a strong and stubborn desire to be in total control and this even includes our labors and contributions associated with God’s work. We must guard against the temptation to decide what we should do without first consulting the one for whom we are doing it. To Him, it’s simply about us listening for Him speak and being willing to do what He says. In this lifestyle, we can appreciate His grace and wisdom and know that He will receive all the glory. We can also be assured there is no such thing as a prayer that is not important or a compassionate gesture that is too small if God is leading us. Learning and accepting that God desires to be in control of everything in our life is a difficult lesson. His way is for us to surrender our ideas, opinions, and justifications so that we can humbly submit to His perfect instructions and walk in His Spirit.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PERSONAL BIBLE STUDY IS THE CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSIBILITY
It’s no secret there are many different ideas about religion and spirituality. I’ve studied different religions and even within my own faith of Christianity I have discovered there are many conflicting opinions concerning what God wants us to be and how we are to live. At this time I will limit my views to the Christian faith because that is where I have spent more time in research and also declare my allegiance. I must add that I have not “arrived” at some type of wisdom plateau or to be considered a Bible scholar but instead have a long way to go in my spiritual understanding. In fact, it seems the more I learn the more I realize I do not know.
I was raised in a traditional Baptist church in the sixties and seventies. As I began to study on my own, I realized there were many other creeds and ideologies in the religious world that at least deserved careful consideration. I’ve also discovered the more time we spend sincerely praying and researching the Bible, the more questions we have about what we have been taught. It’s true, that every denomination has different ideas and uses certain Bible passages to prove their points but with so many conflicting opinions we can see why there is so much division which also explains why God advises us to seek out our own salvation with fear and trembling. I’m not suggesting that we turn away from reading and listening to other peoples views but we have a personal responsibility to seek the Lord and search for divine truth on our own. “But the anointing which you have received of God abides in you, and you need not that any person teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things and is truth and not a lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in Him” I John 2:27. Bible teachers can help us learn but it’s much easier to trust and even pay someone else to study and explain their views than it is to become a disciplined Bible student. Since we are referring to personal accountability, why would our private studies and prayers not be our highest priority?
It’s common knowledge that many ministers and teachers have certain areas they like to focus on. For example, similar to how we have primary physicians along with a wide array of medical specialist, we also have pastors and evangelist who regularly preach salvation messages, some are known for Bible prophecy and eschatology, while other members of the clergy have a reputation for instructing about faith, positive thinking, and prosperity, etc. Ministers should do what God is telling them to do, but I am also convinced that with each area of expertise there needs to be a more complete presentation within the context of the full gospel. There is something wrong when someone picks out all the passages about how God wants to make us wealthy but does not emphasize that it’s more important to demonstrate God’s character. Yes, we all want to eat chocolate cake and live a comfortable carefree life of blessings but this is not the foundation of our salvation nor the true meaning and purpose of life. We should be alarmed how the olive press, the threshing floor, and God’s refining fire which are critical components of the Christian faith, are being replaced with deceptive feel-good philosophies.
There is a divine order to the way God wants us to live and His desires must be first and foremost. Our highest goals after we are born-again is to know and obey God’s voice, to learn and receive His word, to yield our will, develop faith, love, and live holy. The Bible was not written to satisfy or justify our carnal flesh or to make us comfortable in our sins and neither are blessings given so that we might be absorbed in pleasures which distract us from knowing spiritual truth. The disciple’s mission is not easy or a popular subject because being crucified with Christ and taking up our cross is all about surrendering our will and allowing Jesus to be our Lord and to control our lives. The life-long commitment and responsibility of a Christian are for the mind and conscience to be renewed into His image because unless we are changed from the inside out, Christ cannot be seen in us.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
MEEKNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS BUT STRENGTH UNDER CONTROL
We know that atheist and agnostics have been around since the beginning. There is always someone in the crowd who will disagree about the existence of God and sadly this view seems to be growing. I admit that our free will and independent thinking are beneficial components to establishing what we believe but it never ceases to amaze me that we would argue over the reality of a divine creator. I can understand different worldviews about science, social issues, politics, and even some religious differences, but the subject of whether or not there is a God troubles me deeply. I have also noticed an increased animosity from those who do not believe in the Bible toward those who do. As a Christian minister, I’ve had my share of attacks from individuals who declare I am insane for accepting the God of the Bible as a legitimate source of spiritual truth. My columns are a regular target and in my experiences, atheist do not usually exhibit their disagreements with civility but instead choose to unleash their perspectives with aggressive hostility. It is Christ within us that can sense their internal misery and this causes us to have compassion as we hope that somehow their eyes will be opened before it’s too late. However, at the same time, we must admit that it’s also tempting to argue and fight back against those who are intentionally trying to insult us. So, what is the right way to handle these offensive and slanderous personal attacks? Jesus Christ as the greatest role model of grace and humility in the history of the world, demonstrated that meekness is not weakness but strength under control.
There are many men and women who have faced incredible persecution and we can admire how they also embraced the attitude of Jesus in their life. Jackie Robinson is one of those individuals. He is a sports legend known as the first African American to break the color barrier as a major league baseball player. He won rookie of the year in 1947 and went on to become a baseball superstar. There is not enough room on this page to describe his talents and abilities but what I want to emphasize in this article is the type of person he was. It’s difficult to imagine everything Jackie Robinson endured when he stepped into the spotlight of a world that was filled with prejudice. The horrific name-calling, the nasty and hate-filled insults and people spitting on him were all intended to hurt him and cause him to quit. But instead of railing against them with bitterness and hostility, he displayed a remarkable presence of grace and integrity. An important part of this story that is often not mentioned is that Mr. Robinson and Branch Rickey the man who signed him with the Brooklyn Dodgers were both devout Christians. It was no secret this was a huge step toward desegregating the sports world and they were also fully aware of what a strong resistance they were going to face. Their strategy was to maintain self-control and refuse to retaliate no matter how fierce the persecution. This mindset would eventually become the standard for the civil rights movement and by the way, this historic moment in time was also 17 years before the civil rights act of 1964.
It is told that Mr. Rickey encouraged Robinson and said this will require a person with deep faith and proven character. They both discussed a fervent commitment to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-41 that Christ himself exhibited when he went to the cross. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Rickey issued Robinson this pointed challenge: “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough to not fight back” and by the grace of heaven Robinson was used as an instrument to accomplish God’s will. Let us be reminded today that we are not called to fight against those who hate us but to demonstrate love, integrity, humility, and self-control.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
FAITH THAT CARES ENOUGH TO BECOME INVOLVED
We do not have to look very far to find someone that needs a miracle. Many are suffering some type of crisis like health problems, their children, and grieving over a loss, finances, marriage issues, and on and on. When difficult situations are presented, we become sympathetic, but how often do we consider that God may have brought these individuals to our attention so that we can not only pray but to actually intervene and help meet their needs? Instead of just discussing the situation and having pity, maybe we can become the miracle they are praying for. James chapter two talks about the difference between having faith without becoming involved and literally demonstrating our faith by our willingness to reach out and help someone.
Have you ever been discouraged or in trouble and you cried out for God to please send somebody to help? If someone responded, you knew they were a Godsend, right? But if no one came, we assume someone was called upon but was probably just too busy or maybe they simply did not want to take the time or finances to become involved. I believe this reveals more about what life is really about than we care to think about. Many people are convinced they are free to live however they want and I can understand this point of view for a non-Christian. However, for those who are followers of Jesus, the Bible clearly explains that we are called to radically change from only thinking about ourselves to listening and obeying God as our highest priority. This transformation will produce an attitude of generosity and compassion as we become more like Christ in His attributes and character. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” When we accept the life-changing gift of salvation, we are called to let go of our old self-centered nature and become focused on the greatest commandment which includes loving God and others as ourselves.
The Bible refers to those who become God’s children as instruments and vessels of honor. The idea of being used by the Master of the universe is a privilege and as His followers, we are to be listening for His voice, growing stronger in our compassion, and more aware of what He desires (which by the way there is much to do). He may be guiding and preparing us to present a Bible scripture with a friend at work or maybe to write a letter to a loved one that we are concerned about. There are so many opportunities all around us where we could bring encouragement. I know there are times in my life where I could have used someone’s kindness. It feels good to know that someone is thinking about us and cares enough to make an intentional effort to bless us as we all want to feel loved and respected. Galatians chapter six talks about our deeds being like seeds and that we all reap according to what we sow. Applying this spiritual principal to our life, allows us to see how important it is to care about others in the same way we would like someone to care about us. If you need a miracle, become someone’s miracle, if you desire to have more friends, go out of your way to be friendly, if you want to be loved, learn how to love. Yes, God can make the divine appointments but our responsibility is to make ourselves available.
Jesus told a parable in Luke chapter ten about a man who was attacked by thieves and left beside the road nearly dead. Two different men came upon the situation (one of them a minister) and both ignored him. Then a Samaritan man found him and literally saved his life. The good Samaritan became the wounded man’s miracle and presents the question that is worthy of consideration; are we the type who passes by and looks the other way, or the one who stops and becomes involved?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 7/23/18
THE TEMPTATION TO NEGOTIATE WITH GOD
I am told on a regular basis, “write something that makes us feel good.” I understand that we want to live in comfort where we gravitate toward information that allows us to relax and enjoy life and it’s wonderful to train our mind to be a positive thinker. However, in our quest to live in “happy land” there are also difficult realities whether we choose to accept them or not. In Hebrews 4:12, God’s word is described as a two-edged sword which has the power and wisdom to know all things including our conscience. We are called to praise Him not only in the good times of blessing and peace but also to humble ourselves and submit to Him in situations we would rather not think about or deal with.
Humanity has always been gullible to confusing evil with good because our old human nature loves to justify and excuse our guilt. Adam and Eve were the original pioneers of agreeing with Satan and did not hesitate to defend and justify their disobedience. Since then, this world has drifted so far from the shores of honesty it can hardly see land and still remains in denial about the danger. Is it any surprise that most of the world is still trying to blame others for their own decisions? When the compass of God’s truth is thrown overboard and guidance is left up to those who are spiritually blind, there are going to be serious problems. If evil were not made to appear good, there would be no such thing as temptation or deception and allow me to add that when people are more concerned with being politically correct than obedient to God, we can guarantee that society is destined for failure. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter”Isaiah 5:20.
A common word I hear on a regular basis is “balance” and in fact, I use it myself from time to time but I’ve discovered that we can also use this concept as an excuse to justify our own ideas. If we study with the intention of learning about our spiritual responsibilities, we will discover challenging demands from the Lord which require us to make painful decisions. We do not hear this taught often but God operates in simple terms. He is filled with mercy and long-suffering, but He is also strict when it comes to obedience. For example, when He says, “do not look back”He means what He says, as Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt reveals. I realize this is not a happy ending but nonetheless a valuable lesson to be remembered.
We are seeing a trend in this day and age where Christianity is being projected as an image of soft and easy lifestyles that describe God as a sympathetic old man who is overly lenient. This really becomes noticeable especially at funerals where everyone no matter who they were are now suddenly declared as a devoted saint. This message seems to imply that if we sing the old hymn, “When we all get to heaven” we can rest assured that we will all end up there. Another uncomfortable subject are scriptures that command us to take up our cross and follow Him, which includes being transformed and completely changing who I am. My carnal human nature does not waste a moment trying to persuade me that it knows how to handle these religious concepts without any degree of sacrifice or suffering even though the Bible clearly explains that becoming a follower of Jesus will cost me everything.
So, with love and grace, let us graciously acknowledge that the sword of God’s truth has two edges and that all Biblical instruction is not hot-fudge cake. Saul before his conversion in Acts chapter 9 was a fierce enemy of Christ, but after he encountered the living Jesus on the Damascus road, he fell in love with the one he so fervently rejected. Verse 18 says, “there fell from his eyes something like scales.” He did not just focus on the happy verses, attempt to compromise, justify, negotiate a deal, or try to escape his personal responsibility. He simply trusted in God’s truth (even the difficult parts) to make him free.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 7/16/18
WHEN PRAYING FOR RAIN, DON’T FORGET YOUR UMBRELLA
I’ve heard the old saying that “life is not a bed of roses” for as long as I can remember. I understand what it’s trying to convey but I’ve also thought that it would not really be all that great to lay down on a bed of sharp thorns. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say our journey will have its ups and downs and unfortunately, most of us will experience our share of hard times. Whether it’s a financial worry, a medical situation, family problems, a concern for the world, or just being discouraged from the relentless grind of our job, life can be tough. However, in the midst of all that is going on, we can always turn to God who is filled with an endless source of strength, hope, and love. We can choose to embrace the encouraging truth that God cares about our problems and how He has the power and the solutions to give us the victory no matter the size of our mountain or how dark the night. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” II Corinthians 9:8.
Yes, there are bumps in the road that can help us learn about faith and patience but whatever the crisis it was not God’s intention for us to dwell in a state of defeat. In spite of being surrounded by negative forces, we have been given the opportunity through Christ to abide in His presence where there is an abundance of joy, security, and peace. In John chapter ten and verse ten and eleven we find the words of Christ, “The thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: but I (Jesus) have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Whatever the situation, He has promised that He wants to save you and bring you through your trials stronger and more confident than ever.
The concept of God supplying our needs are wonderful and true spiritual realities but there is also a very important component of receiving His abundant blessings and that is our responsibility to believe. If we do not have faith, it’s not only impossible to please Him but highly unlikely that His miracles can be activated into our life. In Jeremiah chapter 29, we see in verse 11 that we are always on His mind and He has planned very good things for us to enjoy. But continuing in the context, the next two verses mention for us to take the initiative to call upon Him, pray, and seek His presence with all of our heart which of course includes the element of trust and assurance.
I recall a story about a small farming community that had been experiencing a terrible drought. The crops were dying in the fields and everyone was very worried because this is how they made their living. The pastor of the local church called a special prayer service for all the people of the town to gather in front of the church and spend some time agreeing in faith that God would send some rain. Many people arrived and you could sense the seriousness among the crowd. As the pastor was getting ready to begin the meeting, he noticed a young girl standing quietly in the front. Her face was beaming with excitement and then he saw beside her, open and ready for use, was a large colorful umbrella. As he stared at the umbrella, he was a little ashamed that he did not bring one but also felt a sudden surge of hope and confidence. The little girl’s childlike innocence warmed his heart as he realized how much faith she possessed. Though the town had come together to pray for rain, it seemed no one else had thought that maybe they should bring an umbrella to keep from getting wet.
A life without a positive expectation and a hopeful anticipation of goodness is an example of the miserable pessimist who abides in the shadows of fear and sadness. The world and even our own human nature is constantly telling us it’s impossible, it’s risky, it’s hopeless, but we will believe that nothing is too difficult for God and all things are possible with Him.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE CHALLENGE TO KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER
I am sure that many of you can remember when life was not so demanding and filled with anxiety or at least it seemed that way. I was raised in the city so when I had a chance to go to my grandparent’s house out in the country it was like going on vacation. They lived on a quiet overgrown road that came to a dead-end at the Kentucky River and their farm was so remote that when an occasional car would pass by we would stop and stare at it like it was entertainment. I will never forget helping in the garden, feeding the animals, playing in the fireplace, and the sights and smells of country living that gave me a sense of love and security.
I have such fond memories of my grandmother serving huge delicious meals, eating homemade ice-cream, the joy, and freedom of running through fields and forest and then catching lightning bugs in the evenings. When I was young, I thought that going fishing on my grandfather’s boat was the ultimate adventure and going to the creek to help them wash their old car was such innocent fun. Looking for crawdads, throwing rocks, watching out for snakes and getting soaking wet on a hot sunny day was the perfect combination of thrills and excitement. And in the winter when the snow was deep we would go out and play then come in and hold our hands over the pot belly stove and listen to the coal crackle and pop. Spending the night was filled with such anticipation as we slept in huge feather beds with piles of blankets and I still recall the moonlight shining through the windows that made everything seem magical to a boy who dreamed this would last forever.
My wife Cheryl has also told me of the special occasions her family shared together with cookouts and all the kids running and playing. I remember her grandmother that lived in an old farmhouse off the highway where so many dinners and celebrations happened there over the years. Her husband had passed away a long time ago, but they had seven children and this is where everyone would meet on the weekends. My wife recalls how the men would gather under the shade trees and talk about cars, sports, and fishing while the women would be in the house laughing and preparing the meals. Unfortunately, when her grandmother passed away, it was the end of an era. Many times, families break apart and become distant as the absence of these central figures reveal just how much their love and generosity was the “glue” that held everyone together. We also hear people blame the world for changing and how weird everything has become but maybe we are the ones that became so busy that we neglected the importance of spending time with family. Actually, the world becoming darker should motivate us to protect and keep our families closer than ever. Whatever the case, through the years we’ve slowly been drawn into the worries and anxieties of life and as we became burdened with more responsibilities we gradually drifted away from each other.
I wrote a song years ago about how sad it is when families drift apart and there’s a line that says,“Just because life is not the way it used to be – doesn’t mean we can’t do the things we used to do.” When certain individuals pass away and the locations are not the same it’s important to adjust and adapt for the sake of those who are left. The past may be gone but may we not allow this to prevent us from actively carrying on the legacy and traditions within our family. It’s sad when children and grandchildren do not even know their own aunts, uncles or cousins and the only time they come together is at a funeral where the atmosphere is awkward and everyone seems like strangers. Children form their own opinions and attitudes from the bonds of family and it seems selfish for us to have our wonderful experiences and memories and then pull away from this important foundation just because the situation has changed. Our parents and grandparents were hoping and praying that someone (like us) would keep the family together because they understood that close families provide the encouragement, stability, nurturing, and love that we all need and long for.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHEN PARENTS AND CHILDREN DISAGREE
Children are a wonderful blessing! How exciting it is to hold a little baby and imagine the person they will become along with all the great things they will experience and accomplish. These feelings of expectation and happiness are amazing and hopefully will continue as we watch them grow throughout our lifetime, however, as children develop beyond their formative years and into their teens, our excitement often turns to confusion and discouragement. No one is perfect or has all the answers, and we might as well face the reality that even with our prayers,sometimes our offspring will not always go the way we thought they would.
When children are young, they are subjected to the influences of their parents. As they grow older, they begin to explore and absorb what everyone else has to say about everything. In this process of comparing what they have been told with all of the new information they are gathering, it’s only a matter of time until they begin to form their own opinions and worldviews about what is right and wrong. Often, these ideas and belief systems are different from their parents and of course becomes an agonizing disappointment as they watch their child evolve into someone they never imagined. Proverbs chapter 22 reminds us of the importance of teaching and raising a child according to God’s principles and we appreciate His promise that when they grow older they will remember and embrace these truths.
So, what can parents do that are facing this situation? I’ve been asked this question many times over the years and it seems as time goes on, I am hearing it even more. We can start with accepting that we cannot change what anyone believes and this includes our precious child. To present this statement in an even more sobering perspective, we can ask ourselves, is it possible that anyone could change what we believe? Probably not. So, once we understand the guidelines of the situation, we can move forward. We are living in an ever-changing world that is filled with all types of philosophies and ideologies which are being advertised as correct and acceptable alternative truths. Since we are referring to our ideas and opinions, let’s go back and recall our own experiences when we were in our teens and early twenties. As you were developing into an adult, did you agree with the views of your parents? In some clans, we notice that politics, religion, and social issues are not a big deal while in other families these topics consistently dominate the conversation. After an exhaustive exploration, some young adults will accept and approve of their parent’s views while others will conclude their parents were either not intellectually able or willing to research the subject thus hindering their understanding. Moms and dads are not intentionally leading their children into error, but we can all make mistakes. May we consider that it is best to teach a child how to think than to tell them what to think? Often, the child attempts to explain their newly discovered persuasions, only to encounter intense attitudes of displeasure and rejection. In these cases, it’s common to have both sides praying for each other that God will open eyes and hearts.
When we pray we know that trusting God is acknowledging that He is the only one who has the power to transform someone’s thinking. Along with this fervent commitment to intercede, I must include another consideration just as important. There is a huge difference between asking God to make someone believe like we do and asking Him to open their eyes to the truth. You see, if we are just wanting a “mini-me” we are missing the point. Having someone who believes exactly like us might make us feel good, but what if we are wrong? At the end of the day, sometimes the parents are right and sometimes the next generation is right. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that God’s love is what binds us together far beyond our convictions and interpretations. Yes, what we believe is who we are and learning how to get along with someone when you strongly disagree with them is challenging to say the least, but if we desire to have a meaningful relationship with them, it is also necessary. Since Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, we will always discover more unity and agreement when we humbly listen and learn from Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GO AHEAD AND ASK – GOD IS LISTENING
We know that people pray for all types of things and many times I wonder if God takes every request seriously or if He considers some of them unreasonable. For example, I’m sure that at sporting events both sides are praying for victory over the opposing team but I’ve always thought these types of prayers generally fall into the category of the non-spiritual variety. The Bible actually mentions unsuitable attitudes behind our prayers and uses the word, “amiss” which means, flawed, incorrect, harmful, and inappropriate. James 4:3 explains, “Ye ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts.” We find other connotations related to this way of thinking such as mistaken and inaccurate intentions related to wrong and impure motives. So, along with other reasons why our prayers are not answered, we can add this one to the list. We realize its difficult to understand the difference between a legitimate prayer and one that falls into the classification of being selfish, but this does not mean that God is not listening and carefully considering each one.
An amazing prayer request is found in the tenth chapter of the book of Joshua. Israel is at war with the Amorites and with Joshua leading the way, we are given an account of this true story. In verse 12, it’s recorded that Joshua declared to the Lord and in front of the entire army for the Sun and the Moon to stand still until they could defeat the enemy. God actually granted this request and for an entire day, the Sun and Moon miraculously stood still. Israel eventually won this battle and it’s described as an overwhelming victory in which the enemy was completely destroyed. When I think of modern military leaders standing strong in prayer, I must admit that General George Patton is not on the top of my list. However, it’s recorded in history that Patton also believed in prayer and had faith in the power of God. Most of us have heard of the World War II conflict called, The Battle of the Bulge, and on a cold December in 1944, the American ground forces were struggling because dense clouds were preventing air support. Patton realized the fate of the war was now being determined by the terrible weather. He aggressively took action and ordered this prayer to be distributed to every unit in the Third Army. “Almighty and most merciful God, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these moderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.” Whether you believe this was a miracle or simply a coincidence, the fog and clouds dissipated and allied air power helped defeat the last major German offensive of the war.
Though faith on this level is rare, I recently read a few innocent prayers that young school children had written down and as they are honest, some were also comical. One 8-year-old boy prayed that his math test would be easy and another classmate made his heavenly request for the cafeteria to serve chocolate cake every day. Others had a more mature petition when they asked God to protect every law enforcement, firefighter, and first responder. One 10-year-old girl said, “Dear God, thank you for helping George Washington win the Revolutionary War so that we could become the United States of America and live free” which I thought was a wonderful appreciation for answered prayer.
Nonetheless, it’s beyond the imagination how God listens to everyone all at once, sorting through millions of prayer requests every hour, then deciding yes, or no, or wait till later. This is why He is the Sovereign Almighty whose attributes include being Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. As we continue in our journey and are inspired to believe that mountains can be moved with a small amount of faith, I see nothing wrong with sincerely asking God for a larger amount of confidence. We accept that all prayers may not be answered, but at the same time, if our motives are pure and God is in agreement, we can embrace His promise that nothing is impossible.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE GREAT COMMISSION
I love to write (and talk) and all who know me will agree that I am not a man of few words. As a windy minister, it only seems logical that I would be involved in the world of communication. For the last few years I’ve been writing “Living on purpose” and it’s truly been a pleasure. I just want to say that I sincerely appreciate all of you that take the time to read the column and the many thoughtful and encouraging emails that I receive each week. I’ve been writing sermons, articles, and music for a long time which eventually branched into a weekly blog. From there it evolved into being accepted as a regular weekly columnist with my local newspaper two and half years ago and has now expanded larger than I could have ever imagined. Just like shooting basketball or playing the piano, God’s grace works together with our faith and diligence. However, I also realize that sitting in front of the computer every day can only take me so far which is why I must listen and daily depend on Him to somehow use me to relay what He wants to say. It’s amazing how the Lord can use our gifts and talents for His glory even if it’s something like the gift of gab!
After serving in several churches over the years, I’m now trying to step out of my comfort zone and become more focused on those who live outside the walls of the church. When we venture away from the safety and security of our familiar routine, we discover the attitude of the world is not as sympathetic toward our cause for Christ. For example, we can give a praise report at church and receive enthusiasm and excitement from those who are like-minded, but in a crowd of non-believers, we will notice some eye rolling and a few disrespectful yawns. Why? Because a non-Christian could care less about anything associated with God. Jesus explains in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love his own: but you are not of the world because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” The idea here is whenever someone becomes a Christian, their spirit is transformed into a new person and this changes their spiritual identity and citizenship. As we remember the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together” it’s clear that when we become born-again we become a different bird indeed. Thus, we understand why there has always been a natural spiritual resistance from the world toward God and His followers.
For those of you who want to know more about our ministry and some of the projects we are involved in, the easiest way is to go to our website, billyhollandministries.com and pull up a comfortable chair. There are pictures, original music, and over 500 articles to download for free. I’m very excited about meeting Christian pastors and leaders that are contacting us from around the world through the site. Most are from very poor countries and we have felt the Lord leading us to purchase Bibles from bookstores in their communities and having these ministers pick them up and distribute them. Some send us pictures but we are careful not to post them because if they are recognized their lives would be in danger. To see their spiritual hunger and thirst for God is truly refreshing, yet we wonder why many churches here in this country appear to be spiritually asleep. Have our blessings and pleasures distracted us and caused our love and compassion to wax cold? Yes, we might not be called to go to Kenya, Poland, or Japan, but we can at least pray and financially support those who are. First Corinthians chapter 3 describes that some will plant the seed and others will water it, but only Jesus can make it grow and in Matthew chapter 28 and Mark chapter 16, Jesus instructs His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel along with baptizing and teaching all nations about God. However, as the nickname for evangelizing the globe is called the “Great Commission” our highest priority as a serious follower of Jesus Christ is actually more about personally demonstrating God’s love than just telling everyone else how to live.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
I’m sure that many of you remember the man who portrayed the friendly neighbor in the popular children’s program known all over the world as Mister Rogers. Who can forget the childlike song that asked the question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” With the macho crowd, he was labeled a sissy and downright creepy but to children, he was always a nice, polite, and comforting role model. There have been many false accusations about him through the years like the rumors about him having to wear long sleeve sweaters to hide his offensive tattoos, but these have all been proven to be nothing more than overactive imaginations and a display of how cruel our human nature can be. How sad to witness the moral convictions of our society falling so far away from God’s standards that when someone is acting normal the world believes they are weird. This reminds me of the scripture found in Isaiah chapter five that warns, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that exchange darkness for light, and light for darkness; that trade bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Unfortunately, this is another example of how the harsh attitudes of the oppressors are always seeking to bully and criticize decent individuals who are trying to make the world a better place.
Actually, most of this negativity can be explained when we realize his presentation was never intended to impress or entertain adults. His focus and passion were completely dedicated to providing an honest and wholesome ministry to children. He did not care about what his critics were saying, he was just grateful to be communicating with the young ones and approached this responsibility very seriously. Apparently, he was not trying to become famous or a television star, he was simply using the broadcast as a vehicle to reach more children and designed Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as an outreach ministry as an extension of his service for Christ. The show began in 1968 and filmed 895 episodes before ending in the year 2000. He is quoted, “I went into television because I was convinced there was some way of using this fabulous instrument of technology to help nurture those who would watch and listen.” He approached his young audience with respect and directness about issues such as self-control, imagination, honesty, creativity, appreciation for diversity, cooperation, patience, and kindness just to mention a few. There is a movie being made about his life and I for one certainly hope this represents Fred Rogers in a favorable expression of honesty and integrity. In 2002 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and quietly passed away in 2003 with his wife Joanne at his side.
As an ordained Presbyterian minister, Fred Mcfeely Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1963. I’m sure that most people did not think about it, but he was more like a Sunday school teacher that used simple props and themes to tell stories about everyday life. He was a puppeteer and used his own voice for the many characters in the show. With a degree in music composition, he actually wrote over 200 songs including, “I’m proud of you” and “You are special.” As the character Mister Rogers, Fred was not necessarily acting a like someone else but was simply being himself. He was seriously devoted to his Christian faith and used his platform to sincerely demonstrate and communicate conservative Christian values. As we acknowledge and appreciate today’s modern spiritual leaders and their message of hope and inspiration, we can see that Fred Rogers was actually a pioneer of the encouragement movement. Instead of traditional religious sermons that focus on how bad we are, Fred wanted to build self-esteem and emphasize how everyone is loved and how we are all unique and important to God. Another quote, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This optimistic outlook and positive thinking approach is a choice we all make every day. We can be like Eeyore and always complain about the glass being half-empty, or we can develop a humble awareness to value our blessings and thank God not only for the glass but also for it being half-full.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WISDOM IS UNDERSTANDING WHAT WE KNOW
When it comes to having spiritual wisdom, it’s not how much we know but how much we understand. It’s one thing to have bags of information seeds stacked up in the barn of our mind, but more importantly, how many seeds have been planted and nurtured to take root within our heart? The devil and all of his helpers have worlds of spiritual knowledge but they do not allow it to penetrate their conscience and change who they are. Likewise, humans can also learn and accumulate information and then select what they believe because each person has been given the gift of free will. So, when it comes to spiritual knowledge, just because we read about how to live a victorious Christian life does not mean we will automatically be converted into a victorious overcomer. We must absorb His Word through our brain and into our spirit all the while learning how to surrender our will and discipline our flesh. Whew! These powder-puff sermons about strolling through life enjoying the overflowing storehouses of blessings are deceiving, to say the least. In reality, the true Christian life is not easy, in fact, the more serious we become the more difficult it will be. If we are genuinely born again, our spirit is connected with God’s Spirit and we have a wonderful opportunity to channel His energy into our being. If we can prevent our old corrupt nature from talking us out of it, we can be saved from ourselves but it’s going to take a burning passion and a total commitment. Being a follower of Jesus means we are accepting a golden opportunity to transform the way we think which will literally change who we are.
Persistence and stubbornness can be good if we can incorporate them into following Christ. Yes, being stubborn for God can be considered as faith, however, being stubborn against God is an attitude of rebellion. He appreciates and blesses us for being persistent but when He tells us no and we still keep pushing forward, we have fallen into disobedience and rebellion. There have been times in my life when I did not know whether to stop believing or to keep proceeding. Have you ever felt that way? I’ve had doors slammed in my face and my share of disappointment, but I kept knocking even to the point of trying to force them open with a bulldozer. To say the least, this is not always the right way to proceed. Maybe God never intended for them to open and our demolition attitude just makes a huge mess including the misery and discouragement from resentment and confusion. To understand if the dark-side is working against us or if the Lord is directing us we need discernment which comes from seeking God’s still small voice with all of our heart.
It’s also important to make sure we know our direction. Pray and research thoroughly before you move. If you do not know what to do or where you are going, do something positive while you are waiting for His confirmation. If you’ve been praying for a long time and have not heard anything, I once heard someone say, “while waiting for a door to open, praise Him in the hallway.” If you are really serious, you can declare a personal fast in order to become more spiritually sensitive. There is no need to broadcast this on social media or tell everyone you see. By the way, fasting is not always just about food but can be the denial of other pleasures along with dedicating quiet time alone with Him. When you discover all of the basic fundamentals and requirements that are associated with your goals, you may realize you are simply not ready to proceed with your goals at this time or maybe not at all. Yes, God can move mountains but He does not put the cart before the horse or force you to cooperate. He can influence others, give you favor, and present opportunities but most of the time, it’s our diligence and perseverance that helps us to be in the position to press forward. He is preparing a path for you behind the scenes that can utilize your strengths and will be a perfect fit for you. However, our obedience and patience are critical factors as we follow His plans and not our own.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
REMEMBERING THOSE WHO GAVE ALL
Memorial means to “remember” and every year on the last Monday in May, we honor those who sacrificed their lives in the line of active military service. On Memorial Day we stop and pay our respect to those who were willing to stand in the gap between freedom and tyranny! The First Amendment was not only signed into existence with ink but with the blood of over 1.1 million Americans that have died in U.S. wars along with many more that have suffered from physical and mental difficulties. Over the years, numerous families have suffered loss from war including my own and we have a deep appreciation for the men and women that have served to protect our country. My uncle, Kenny Maye was killed in Korea and I have his tags, casket flag and a rare picture of him. He was only 20 years old in 1950 and his body was never found. Sadly, his existence is nearly unknown and I often wonder about the life he could have had.
We are only a few miles from Camp Nelson National Cemetery and from the highway you can see many rows of the over twelve thousand perfectly lined white marble tombstones. At times I’ve often driven past without hardly thinking about how each of these individuals at one time or another accepted the call of duty. And what is that call? To defend and protect our liberties – whatever the cost! Each one of those brave soldiers was willing to give their life for their country and many did. It is said – “All gave some and some gave all.” Truly, the cost of freedom is beyond the imagination. In March 1775, Patrick Henry said, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” I am convinced this is the heart cry of all the heroes that have given their lives for our country.
Here is a story about a World War II hero whose name was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific and on February 20, 1942 his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader gave him a direct order for him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back. As he was returning to the ship he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the aircraft carrier which was defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet, So, there was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert their attention away from the ship.
Laying aside all thoughts of this probably being his last moments, he aggressively dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber machine guns blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. O’Hare was weaving in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. However – he did not stop there. He continued the assault, diving at the fighters, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible. Suddenly, the Japanese squadron headed off in another direction which was nothing less than a miracle. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his damaged plane somehow made it back to the carrier. Upon arrival, the film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It clearly revealed his daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft. For this heroic act Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sadly, a year later Mr. O’Hare was killed in another aerial battle at the age of 29. His hometown would not allow the memory of this war hero to fade, and today the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago is named as an honor to the courage of this brave man.
Dr. Holland is a Christian minister, author, and community outreach, chaplain. Read more at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
NOTHING CAN BE DONE WITHOUT HOPE AND CONFIDENCE
We spent some time at Cumberland Falls State Park this past week. It’s always refreshing to get away every now and then and behold the breathtaking beauty of nature. The earth is His masterpiece and with all of the magnificent places on the planet, we appreciate the privilege to enjoy His wonderful creation. The trees and flowers are now blooming and we were fortunate to catch a glimpse of many types of birds, a family of deer, squirrels, groundhogs, raccoons, and chipmunks along the trails. The roaring falls is always a spectacular sight and reminds us of God’s amazing power and majesty. After spending a day breathing in the fresh forest air and enjoying the peace and quiet, we ate dinner at the lodge and then retired to our room. Out of habit we turned on the television and discovered there had been another deadly school shooting. How suddenly we were snapped back into the sobering reality of more heartache. Evil can only be stopped when it is removed from the conscience of mankind. Until then, we are faced with the consequences of sin.
The serious Christian is troubled by what is going on in the world but they also realize that God is not panicking or surprised – He is in total control. We also know the Bible predicts that before the return of Christ, the days will become more perilous. So, what can we do? Well, we can make ourselves available to help those in need but there is a condition that many Christians tend to forget. Most people do not really want help. They do not want to hear about God and they do not want to change the way they live. The old saying is true, “You cannot help those who will not help themselves.” Next, we need to learn how to remain calm. The flood of daily negativity can cause fear and anxiety if we become more focused on the chaos than the hope and peace of God’s presence. Yes, there is much wickedness and demonic influence in the world which is why it’s so critical to keep our mind and heart focused on God’s still small voice. This is the only voice that really matters. He is our rock, our refuge, and our anchor that can keep us from being overwhelmed with worry and discouragement. Charles Spurgeon said, “Let this one great, gracious, glorious fact lie in your spirit until it permeates all your thoughts and makes you rejoice even though you are without strength. Rejoice that the Lord Jesus has become your strength and your song and has become your salvation.”
Another point is the most obvious – we must pray. Prayer is a widely used word and yet we wonder if people are really falling on their knees or is it just a nice thing to say? I am personally convinced that we must ask God to give us a desire to pray or we will never understand our spiritual responsibility. Our human nature rebels so fiercely against us praying that if we do not develop a passionate burden to intercede, we will settle for just talking about it. Since prayer definitely changes circumstances, can you imagine how much good we could do if we did pray and how bad the world would be if the few individuals who are praying would stop? God knew in the last days that His people would choose to spend more time watching television and enjoying life’s pleasures than praying and this explains more than we would like to admit. Can we make a difference in the world? Absolutely! Do we really want to make a difference in the world? That is the monumental question. It depends on how dedicated and determined we are to do what God is asking. Helen Keller once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” This is a wonderful motivational statement, but we need to distinguish the difference between a natural confidence to do what we want to do and a spiritual faith that is devoted to God’s instructions. When reverential respect and honor toward God is removed from education and government, it’s like replacing our moral compass with a self-serving philosophy which justifies our decision to drift aimlessly on a sea of arrogant independence.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WE ARE THE CARETAKER OF OUR THOUGHTS
I read a book years ago by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale called, “The amazing results of positive thinking” and I recommend it as an inspiration and encouragement to your spiritual life. He explains that our mind is filled with all types of thoughts and suggestions but everyone is held accountable to manage them. We have the ability to resist and ignore the negative ones that hinder our life and embrace the ones that are positive and encouraging. I remember afterstudying about this principle, I had an interesting dream. I do not always place a lot of credibility in dreams because sometimes I think they are related with late-night pizza binges, but on the other hand, the Bible reveals that some dreams have been used a legitimate way that God can communicate. Anyway, here was my dream.
I found myself on a dusty construction site and as I looked around, I noticed workers with shovels and they were busy digging up small trees and bushes. Some were driving trucks andothers were using chainsaws and in the distance, I noticed a bulldozer was pushing over large trees. They were obviously clearing the land but I was not sure for what reason. I approached one of the workers and asked who was in charge but he just kept walking. For some reason, I sensed in the dream that Jesus was overseeing this operation and so I started searching for him. I was expecting any moment to see him in a white tunic, sandals, and hard-hat, but I never did. Finally, I saw a man that was writing on a clipboard and he appeared to be a supervisor. I went over to him and said, “excuse me, sir, can you tell me where to find the project manager?” As he started walking away he turned his head and calmly said, “you are.” This is the last thing I remember.
There is an old rhyme that says, “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are seeds, you can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.” This may sound silly, but according to our subject, it makes perfect sense to consider that we are the gardener and caretaker of our own mind. We may not want to admit it, but our spiritual journey was never intended to be a carefree experience but rather to fulfill a destiny of specific meaning and purpose. Since it’s been established that what we think is directly associated with how we feel along with what we say and do, we can agree that whatever has taken root and is growing in our mind is having a huge impact on who we are. As the wind and the birds distribute seeds upon the earth, likewise the voices and experiences of this life are deposited within our soul. Each of us is vulnerable to this natural process, however, in the light of free-will, we have been given the authority and responsibility to choose what we think about. There is an interesting scripture found in Romans chapter 12 that refers to our mental accountability, as Paul declares in verse one that we should present our lives as a living and holy sacrifice which God expects us to do. Verse 2 continues about how this can be accomplished. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” The idea here is that we must awaken and realize as Proverbs 23:7 so clearly declares, “As a man thinks in his heart – so is he.” When we understand that managing our mind is a crucial priority within our Christian walk, we will be motivated to develop mental clarity and a stronger spiritual awareness. But, if we choose to live in a default mode that accepts anything to take rootin our mind, we are more likely to become overwhelmed with fear, sadness, chaos, and discouragement. Recognizing this spiritual reality and becoming determined to pray and work toward our mental transformation, will help us stay sensitive to His still small voice. We will never become what God has called us to be until the desire to change becomes greater than the desire to remain the same.
Dr. Holland lives is a Christian minister, author, and community outreach chaplain. Request a free copy of his new CD at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 5/7/18
TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL
To be honest, I probably spend too much time watching and being saturated with the news. I feel the need to keep up with the latest developments so that I can at least have an awareness about current events. However, many times I find myself being absorbed in an ocean of information that is not only meaningless but is also negatively impacting my mental and emotional state of being, (especially when much of it is not true). I’m reminded that I have no power to prevent the moral decline of the culture, but I’m convinced that our passion to help make the planet a better place will always be centered on a relentless dedication to prayer and faith. In today’s stressful environment, the average emotional response is a hopeless sigh and to conclude that we are headed in the wrong direction, but nothing is too difficult for God. As Christians, we called to do more than express an emotional concern…we must have a burden to pray. We can and should roll up our sleeves and demonstrate our faith, but God is the only one who truly can help this world and our prayers are directly connected to His unlimited power and authority.
Over the years, we have all noticed that rebellious attitudes are becoming bolder and more aggressive. I do not necessarily believe that evil is evolving but just becoming more outspoken. There has always been an abundance of hatred and prejudice but when the boundaries of moral decency are removed in the name of free-speech, there is no limit to how ugly an expression can be. The concept of the shock factor appears to be the strategy of choice for those who desire to be widely noticed in a very short period of time. In today’s world of instant information, a relatively unknown person can publicly release their thoughts and within hours they are known all over the world. This basic concept is used in many different movements as a type of marketing and promotional strategy to generate a global awareness. For example, satanic death metal bands see their popularity being measured according to how evil they can appear. I’m sure we have only seen a glimpse of this Pandora’s box as we suspect the future will continue to be a competition to see who can be the most disturbing and outrageous. So, I guess one of my questions is why would we allow ourselves to become a captivated spectator to these militant narcissists who crave our attention? With social media becoming a mental and emotional addiction we can clearly see that the darkside is working overtime to distract many individuals from accomplishing their spiritual destiny. Instead of concentrating on what God has called them to do, a large part of our society has accepted the comfortable role of a spectator by allowing their mind to be held hostage with information that is of little or no significance.
With so many voices attempting to explain politics and social issues, you would think the world is becoming more intelligent and unified. However, it seems the tsunami of chaos and confusion is actually creating an even broader chasm of disagreement. One quandary is that much of our information comes from those who do not really understand what they are talking about which makes it nearly impossible to figure out what is real and what is a biased opinion. Even a small amount of false information and misinterpretation contaminates and hinders the presentation of truth. I believe everyone has been given the opportunity by God to believe or oppose whatever they want as our free-will allows each person to study and research their own political, social, and spiritual convictions. Furthermore, no one should be intimidated to embrace or support an ideology that is offensive to their own personal belief system. Sadly, our freedom for religious expression is dissolving and now mutating into a humanistic cultural agenda that ridicules and mocks certain religious expressions. There is a serious problem when one camp attempts to establish a dominant social law of political correctness and then attacks everyone who disagrees with public condemnation and persecution. If activist groups sincerely desire global respect and tolerance for what they believe, it’s imperative for them to also acknowledge and tolerate the worldviews of those who think differently.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 4/30/18
GOD DOES NOT FORCE US TO LOVE HIM
For those who are interested in the life after this one, there is no doubt some curiosity about where we are going and how to get there. The followers of Christ place their faith in His promises and believe He has the power to save and secure a place in heaven for them. Others who prefer to live their own way are somewhat more skeptical and independent in their thinking. As a minister, I spend most of my time thinking, talking or writing about our spiritual life and most of the time the conversation will include questions about our progress according to God’s perspective. On one hand, the Bible is a simple instruction manual teaching us how to live the Christian life and on the other hand, it’s perceived as a complicated and mysterious collection of messages that most of us cannot understand. This is why it’s crucial to pray and invest our time asking Him for the heavenly interpretation of what He is trying to say. Knowing God personally and obtaining His wisdom is not easy. It requires diligence and perseverance and is much like searching for buried treasure.
I probably attend more funerals than the average person because I often officiate them. When families are grieving, it’s very difficult to find words that help and I’ve learned that most of the time silence is golden. We do not like funerals or cemetery’s because they remind us of the end of life and especially for those who are not ready to face God, this explains why they choose to avoid them. Funerals are an occasion where we are not only paying our respect for the one who has passed on, but we also sense the anxiety as we are reminded of our own fate. I believe it’s good to discuss this because we should not deny that death is a part of living. In fact, a funeral is a wonderful place where God can clearly speak to someone’s heart and have their attention long enough to show them the true spiritual meaning of life. Yes, we have a choice to follow Christ but just because we are convicted of our need to surrender our life to Him does not mean we will go through with it. He will never force anyone to love Him.
When I am at a funeral, I’ve noticed within the conversations there is always someone declaringthe deceased as now living in the glories that are beyond the imagination. For the Christian, this is a wonderful truth but being an heir unto salvation is more than having a reputation as a hard worker and an easy going personality. Evidently to the masses, these requirements, whether they were a Christian or not, allows everyone a guaranteed passage to the eternal joys of walking on the streets of gold. I’m not trying to sound negative, but this idea is confusing because I cannot find the Biblical confirmation. Of course, we cannot know what is in someone’s heart or judge their intentions but as followers and messengers of God’s Word, we know that God does require everyone to be accountable to the gospel. If there is no responsibility or commitment to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, this sends a message of false security to those who still have a chance to be redeemed.
There are many people today who are convinced that everyone is going to heaven, and if funerals are being used as an indicator then it does seem so. However, from God’s view, we are told that it’s all about the spiritual association with who we loved and considered our Lord while we were alive. Inviting Christ into our heart and allowing Him to be the Master of our life is our reaction to receiving His atonement. Knowing God is the purpose and meaning of everything. Salvation is not based on us being a decent person but rather completely on His grace and no amount of good deeds could ever be a substitute for being born-again. There is no need to fear a funeral or a cemetery because those who are in covenant with Jesus Christ are celebrating their victorious release into a sin-free realm where they will live in peace with God forever. There is nothing more important than knowing we are prepared to meet Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GIVING CHEERFULLY AND ACCEPTING GRATEFULLY
Success is a popular subject and an exciting attitude that fuels the imagination and drives our motivation. The fervent desire to succeed seems to be embedded within our DNA and I see nothing wrong with an honest inspiration to accomplish certain goals. Even the Bible talks about “pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” and refers to winning and being victorious as a spiritual blessing in accordance with God’s perfect will. Yes, success can be satisfying if our motives are pure but the real objective may be to understand what it really means. It’s not a sin to be proud of our accomplishments, in fact, we pray for our children’s success and encourage them as they pursue their dreams. However, good fortune even though associated with a healthy and normal progressive lifestyle can be interpreted differently according to whether we are pursuing our desires or following God’s instructions.
Wealth is usually associated with accomplishment but true success is not always dependent on money. Finances are a vehicle that can do amazing things when God is allowed to be in control and since He wants to be the ultimate decider of each individual’s direction, we acknowledge Him as the one who allows success to manifest. For those who claim to yield their will unto God, this obedience also includes all decisions including our business affairs. When Christ is allowed to become Lord of our heart we are also inviting Him to be our financial adviser. His vision is to use us as a vessel to pour through instead of us building huge bank accounts and hoarding earthly treasures. Our heavenly Father manages everything with perfect wisdom and holy truth and His plans are constantly trying to weave the paths of men and women together for the good of many. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to be selfish and rebellious and are usually so focused on ourselves that we rarely comprehend or care what God is trying to tell us. Some might say they would be generous and help others if they had more resources but this is usually only an excuse for not giving a part of what they already have. Winston Churchill is quoted, “We make a living by what we get – we make a life by what we give.” It has been said that waiting until we are rich to bless others is a smokescreen trying to hide our lack of faith and love. Mother Teresa once said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” So, we can conclude that giving has everything to do with an attitude of compassion.
There are reasons why the Lord of heaven might open a door to wealth but there are many others that could explain why He keeps them locked. Whatever the case may be, He has the power and authority to bless us with rooms of gold but thankfully He also has the divine discernment to protect us from being ruined by it. He knows our intentions and what we will do before we are given success and I also believe there are special situations where we are tested to see if we have any inclination whatsoever to seek the bigger picture of why this is happening. God longs for His children to wake up and realize that we are just a spoke in the wheel and having our barns filled with plenty is His plan to use us as a distribution center. One of our Lord’s most notable attributes is giving and everyone who claims to be filled with His nature will recognize and cheerfully follow His promptings.
We cannot out-give God as He is pleased when we become a trusted steward. Pride loves to collect and accumulate because it creates a false sense of power and authority, but placing too much emphasis on the material realm will always distort our spiritual relationship with Christ and possibly derail us from our divine destiny. Maya Angelou said, “when we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Instead of thinking that life is a game to see who can accumulate the most, may we realize from His perspective it’s actually about who can give the most away.
Find out more about Dr. Holland’s book, “A Lifestyle of Worship” and his free scripture CD offer at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THERE ARE HEROES ALL AROUND US
We hear a lot about heroes in this day and age. Accomplished athletes are seen as idols for throwing around a ball along with blockbuster fantasies that portray individuals who can fly and use their incredible super-powers to save the universe. However, in the real world, it’s encouraging to know there are humble and hardly noticed heroes all around us. These selfless individuals have no desire to be praised or even recognized. They are a special group of human beings that are not only determined to accomplish what God has called them to do but sincerely willing to sacrifice their life so that others can live. The following story is an example of one of these heavenly secret-agents.
Irena Sendler was a Polish nurse and social worker who worked in the Warsaw health department during World War II. In a short window of time between 1942 and 1943, she along with a small band of co-workers led a courageous effort within the Warsaw ghetto to secretly smuggle at least 2500 Jewish babies and children from facing the certainty of the German concentration camps. She and her team were members of the Zegota, an underground organization established in 1940 by the Polish government for the purpose of rescuing Polish Jews. With permission from the Nazi’s to enter the ghetto to help segregate the city’s 380,000 Jews, she came up with a plan to secretly smuggle babies and young children to safety. They used every idea possible to rescue the innocent, which included hiding them in toolboxes and under gurney’s, sneaking them into ambulances, taking them through sewer pipes or other underground passageways, wheeling them out in suitcases, and leading them out through an old courtyard which led to the non-Jewish areas. She carefully recorded the names of the children on cigarette papers and sealed them in glass bottles which she buried in a colleague’s garden. After the war, the jars were dug up and the lists handed over to Jewish representatives. Attempts were made to reunite the children with their families but sadly most of the parents had perished in the Treblinka death camp.
She was arrested in October 1943 and taken to Gestapo headquarters where she was interrogated to surrender information about the leaders of Zegota. She endured severe beatings and as her legs and feet were broken, she was eventually driven away to be executed. With what many consider to be a miracle from heaven, a private deal was made between Zegota and her executioner and she was released. Irena was later found unconscious along the side of the road and had to use crutches the rest of her life as a result of her injuries. One of the names in the jars was Michal Glowinski, a professor of literature. He said, “I fondly think about her and owe my life to her.” With tears, Elzbieta Ficowska also agreed as she was smuggled out of the ghetto by Mrs. Sendler inside a large toolbox when she was just five months old. Mrs. Sendler was eventually nominated for the Nobel peace prize in 1997 and announced as the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage.
Unlike the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,000 Jews by employing them at his Krakow factory and is widely recognized thanks to an award-winning book and film, Mrs. Sendler’s story remained relatively unknown until a few years ago when it was discovered in America by a group of Kansas school children who wrote a play about it, called “Life in a Jar.” The word spread very quickly and now the world is aware of her saving many defenseless victims of the Nazi ideology. She spent her last years in a Warsaw nursing home and passed away in 2008. When interviewed, she sternly insisted she did nothing special and is quoted, “I was brought up to believe that a person must be rescued when drowning, regardless of religion and nationality. The thought of being considered a hero irritates me greatly as I continue to have pangs within my conscience that I did so little. My emotions are overshadowed by the fact that my faithful co-workers, who also constantly risked their lives, did not live long enough to receive the honors that are now falling upon me.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
published – 4/9/18
BEING REUNITED WITH OUR PARENTS FOREVER
I went for a quiet walk the other day, to relax and sort my thoughts like the stacks of messages and notes on my desk. While gazing at the clear sky and breathing in the cool air, it dawned on me that it’s been almost two years since my dad passed away. Honestly, it seems like yesterday. I realize that many people grew up without a father and I’m very sympathetic about that. Thank God, there are great step-dads and step-moms that have stepped into difficult situations and have been a much needed tower of strength and stability in the life of a child. Then I realized, that everyone who manages to enjoy a normal life expectancy will eventually outlive their parents. This means that most of us will be required to go through the heartbreak of saying goodbye to those who were always the center of our universe. Whether you have already walked through this valley or if this event has not yet happened, we will most likely be left to continue in our winter years without our mom and dad.
When my wife Cheryl and I were married, our parents were in their early forties and everyone seemed so young and filled with dreams and expectations. I guess this is why we were in shock when her dad passed away four years later from cancer at the age of 48. She remembers as a tom-boy, crawling under cars and watching him work on them. She did not have a clue what he was doing but just enjoyed spending quality time alone with him. Working on an old car was probably aggravating to him, but to her, it was exciting as she was like a nurse trying to figure out what type of wrench to hand him next or more than likely what size hammer he needed. Soon after we married, we rented a little house in town and on Saturday mornings after I left for work, her dad would stop by with donuts and they would have some coffee and talk. Through the years I’ve listened to her mention about how much she misses him and what a large part of her security and safety disappeared. Now I understand.
It seems so strange when I think that my dad is no longer here. I remember the first few months, sometimes in the evenings, I would pick up the phone to call him. When I would come to my senses, I not only realized he’s not there, but he’s never coming back. These are the moments we begin to understand how fragile life is and how we take our blessings for granted. As we grow older, we begin to seriously comprehend we only have one father and one mother. Though many other dads and moms are listed in the obituary every day, our pain is unique because they are our parents and we are more closely connected to them than anyone else in the world.
It’s only natural after they are gone, to feel alone and to miss hearing their voice and listening to their thoughts and opinions about everything. You will begin to notice that you have some of your parent’s traits and quirks but that’s OK because it makes you feel closer to them and appreciate them more than ever. You will always be filled with their memories and they will continue to mean more to you as time marches on. Even the simple things like remembering your dad mowing the yard and watching his favorite team or your mom putting the food on the table and giving you a big hug becomes like one of the greatest movies you will ever see. There is a poem by Diana Der-Hovanessian called, “Shifting the sun” and she expresses so beautifully about losing a parent. Here is one of the lines, “When your father dies, you lose your umbrella against bad weather, he takes your childhood with him and your sun shifts forever.” I cannot communicate as eloquently as she, but just as we will follow in the natural cycle of life and death, we are also filled with hope and joy to know this life is not the end of our journey. For those who are born-again in Christ, our salvation includes the exciting and encouraging promise that one day we will be reunited with our parents forever.
Read more articles and stories at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PUBLISHED – 4/2/18
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR US TO BELIEVE
When the celebration of incarnation and the holy week come around, I cannot help but wonder what the general population thinks about the spiritual significance of these events. I realize that Christians are more involved with these holidays because of their personal connection with Jesus Christ, but we must also admit there are many different levels of commitment and enthusiasm. In the last few years, the big screen has produced several Christian based movies and however, you feel about them, at least someone is trying to relay the life of Christ when He physically walked the earth. I saw the movie, “Risen” the other night and after it was over, I thought about some key moments within the film. I’m encouraged whenever I see someone believing when they see a miracle, but I’m also reminded that everyone will not believe in Jesus whether they see one or not. Jesus declared in John 20:29, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Yes, Jesus spoke divine truth and in only three years made a huge impact, but His message was generally not embraced by the masses and neither is it today. Why? Well, the most disturbing reason which is also revealed in this movie is that many individuals will absolutely never allow themselves to surrender their will to God.
“Risen” is based on a fictional character named “Clavius” who portrays a high ranking Roman soldier and fierce non-believer that oversees the crucifixion of Christ. This account is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but some of these events could have been possible. Nonetheless, he’s following his orders and convinced he’s doing the right thing but a few days after Jesus is buried in a tomb, he witnesses the Messiah miraculously comforting His disciples in the upper room. He is so stunned and in a state of shock that he abandons his duties and begins to stalk the disciples hoping to discover what in the world is going on. There’s a scene when Pilate enters this very room where Jesus had miraculously appeared earlier and is furious because the stone has been rolled away and the body of Jesus is missing. Trying to silence the rumors that Jesus actually rose from the dead, he notices a note fastened to the wall that was written and sealed by Clavius. It said, “Do not seek me. Do not follow or wander. Persecute no one on my behalf. I have seen two things which I cannot reconcile. A man died, without question and that same man is alive again. I pursue him, the Nazarene, to find the truth.” Pilate responds angrily, “My right hand has turned against me…how could he follow that Hebrew?” A soldier comments, “Perhaps…it’s true.” And then Pilate makes a very troubling statement, “Well, if it is…I’ll kill him again.” Is this not a heartbreaking example of the lost and depraved nature of mankind?
Although this story exposes our spiritual blindness, it also reveals an encouraging hope that God has provided everyone an invitation to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. We commonly use skits and plays in church to illustrate spiritual principals and even Jesus Himself told parables which are narratives that help explain divine truths. I have no intention to argue about the accuracy or intentions of movies like this, but within the presentation of Jesus we can at least ask ourselves, “is seeing believing?” You would imagine if someone actually witnessed that God and His Word were absolutely true, they would become a Jesus fanatic, but this is not necessarily so. Humans struggle with believing because our pride fights against us being transformed into His way of thinking and living. We want to control our own lives, and do not want anyone, especially God, to interfere with our desires and decisions. We find in Luke chapter 16, where a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus passed away. The rich man ends up in a spiritual afterlife of misery but yet has the ability to see Lazarus and Abraham in the realm of paradise. He lifts his eyes in torment and begs Abraham to please send Lazarus back to warn his family and friends about this place of endless suffering. Abraham replies that whoever refuses to accept God’s message would still not surrender their independence even if someone came back from the dead.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE
Repentance is a common theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 55:7 declares,“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord.” Matthew chapter 4 and verse 17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The most common translation of the word “repent” means to turn or return and more specifically from a theological perspective it represents turning away from evil and turning to God. Though most of the world is in denial, our heavenly Father has a very strong desire, actually a demand, for us to resist sin and be transformed into His image. This has never been a popular message because with us being notoriously rebellious and often referred to as depraved, we have a built-in urge to do what we want. We hate to be told how to live and proudly call it freedom, but God calls it disobedience. The gospel reveals that saving us from ourselves is exactly why Jesus went to the cross. First Peter 1:18,19 says, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”
Many people commonly want to know what they have done that is so bad, and why do they need to ask forgiveness? For anyone to believe they are exempt from judgment is a huge problem because we are all sinners and cannot save ourselves. Non-Christians want everyone to leave them alone while many Christians have a tendency to relax in a false sense of security. Non-Christians are trying to avoid dealing with a guilty conscience but Christians can also drift away and become lukewarm about their need to live in the constant awareness of God’s presence. Wherever you are today, repentance is an honest, regretful acknowledgment of sin with a sincere desire to be spiritually cleansed and a commitment to yield our will to Jesus Christ. “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins might be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19.
My personal understanding of repentance is centered around a conviction to stay close to God and to live according to His standards of purity. I admit I have my share of daily failures even though I know the dangers of temptation. I’m convinced that every person gives their love and attention to what is important to them as we serve whom we obey. The more we learn the more we are accountable for and yet it seems many times we still neglect the discipline to live what we believe. A key ingredient within repentance is having regret and remorse. If we are not broken-hearted and nauseated over what we have done or what we are doing then it’s highly unlikely we will call on God to forgive us. When we come to a point where we are not bothered by our transgressions and have no sense of urgency to make things right, something is terribly wrong. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a person sows, that shall they also reap” Galatians 6:7.
There is more to forgiveness than just saying we are sorry. True repentance is having a change of mind and completely turning away from those enticements that are attempting to control us. When we realize we are guilty and in need of God’s grace, true repentance inspires us to confess we are wrong and should motivate us with a commitment to walk with God instead of against Him. Billy Graham is quoted, “The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was a wealthy superpower, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the prophet Jonah finally arrived and proclaimed God’s warning, the people listened, repented and was forgiven. I believe the same thing can happen once again but this time in our own nation.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I John 1:9.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 3/19/18
PRAYER IS THE LEAST AND THE MOST WE CAN DO
Recently, my wife Cheryl was talking about the need to increase her prayer time and I was definitely agreeing that praying is very important in our spiritual life. In the middle of our conversation, she said, “we should turn our cares into prayers” and that instantly caught my attention. I love catchy phrases and told her that I just might borrow that slogan! We all have worries and cares but for some strange reason, many times we do not consider praying as our highest priority. In fact, for most of us, it’s usually a last resort. Similar to prayer, I’m reminded of the fire axes that are mounted in glass cases and reserved for emergency use only. Sadly, we often forget what a great price God has paid in order that we might have the privilege and opportunity to communicate with Him. It’s been said that prayer is the least we can do and yet the most we can do.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the bridge of intimacy was severed between God and mankind and forgiveness became a temporary covering instead of a permanent removal. This infection of sin not only prevented our Creator from indwelling the heart of the individual but the restoration of our relationship was also not possible until Jesus went to the cross. The crucifixion and resurrection allow us to see that God loved us and wanted to be with us so much that He sent His Son as a ransom for our soul. The blood of Christ was the only payment that could redeem us. So today, instead of going to a priest and having them to intercede and slaughter an animal for our forgiveness, we can approach Jesus Christ directly and invite Him into our life as our personal Savior and Lord.
Prayer is the deliberate act of communicating with God. We can talk with Him while we are doing our daily work and if we need to be quiet we can concentrate and know that He understands us and knows our thoughts. Prayer has been described as simply pouring out our conscience to God about our desires, needs, burdens, and everything that is important to us. Whatever is weighing heavily upon you today is causing anxiety and worry but there is encouraging news! God has provided a wonderful opportunity to cast ourcares on Him. A huge aspect of faith is believing that He is concerned with our fears and troubles and that He desires to intervene. Consider writing down these circumstances andpetitions and trust Him with all of your heart that He is going to take care of them. Billy Graham once said, “This should be the declaration of every follower of Jesus Christ. No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying. When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God.”
Prayer may sound easy but anyone that has attempted to approach His throne on a regular basis will tell you that it is one of the most challenging goals of this life. There are certain steps to take in order for prayer to become a serious part of our journey and it may sound elementary but first, we must have a desire to pray. Without a deep love for God and other people and until we come to a higher level of dedication we will not incorporate prayer as a lifestyle. Next, it is important to believe that prayer is real and that God is listening. This is also not as easy as it sounds because if we have not abandoned our will and allowed Him to sit on the throne of our heart then He already knows we are just playing games. He is not mocked or deceived neither does He look over sin. He is very sensitive to our intentions and attitudes as this directly affects how He responds to our request. Once we decide to approach Him, let us humble ourselves and ask Him to forgive and cleanse us from our transgressions. This is how we can proceed into His holiness with a pure mind and heart. May we be reminded, since He has a specific destiny for us, to always respect His decisions which includes when He says no, as everything is about Hiswill being done instead of our own.
Dr. Holland is a Christian minister, chaplain, and author. Discover more about his ministry at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 3/12/18
GOD IS MORE THAN ENOUGH
We’ve all heard the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” but did you know this is actually from scripture? We read in Isaiah chapter 40 and verse 12, “Who has calculated the waters in the hollow of His hand, and who has measured the heavens and determined the dust of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” Today, if you feel that your crisis is too much for God to take care of, if you believe your problem is too big for God to handle, and if you are convinced your enemy is just too powerful, God wants you to know that you are not seeing life in a correct perspective. God is for you and this means that nothing or no one is greater than His power. You and God are a majority no matter how bleak your situation. He is saying to stop confessing how huge your problems are and start declaring how awesome your God is! Doubt see’s God through the eyes of our emotions but faith see’s our circumstances through the eyes of God. Pray and believe that He is in total control and that He always wants the best for your life. Just for a moment, let’s stop and consider how powerful God is and how we can know that nothing is too difficult for Him.
Imagine an ordinary marble and let’s say this represents the size of the earth. To better understand the size comparison of the earth to our sun (which is actually a small star) we would need a container large enough to put 1 million marbles inside. This would be the equivalent of approximately twenty 55-gallon drums of marbles. Alright, let’s use the marble again except this time it will represent the size of our sun. To have a realistic idea of the size of our sun in comparison to one of the billions of larger stars in the universe, we would need to measure 20 feet which would represent the distance across just one of them. Mind boggling but just imagine, He simply spoke everything into existence. Do you have visions, dreams, and prayers in your life that you are looking for Him to answer? We all do. Since God created all things then He can definitely provide whatever you need today!
To understand the contrast in distance from the earth to the moon verses from the earth to Mars, it has been calculated using a quarter to represent the distance from the earth to the moon and the length of a football field from the earth to Mars. Yes, it’s difficult to understand how big the universe is because our tiny brain cannot grasp it, but it helps our faith to think about these facts and realize that God spoke everything into existence. Let us not forget that He also keeps everything spinning, balanced and tilted perfectly since the beginning of time. Jeremiah 33 and Genesis 22 compares the number of stars with the grains of sand on the seashore. Before the invention of the modern telescope, it was possible to only see about 4000 stars, counting all that was visible from every point on earth. Many astronomers were convinced that Bible passages related to nature and creation like those verses in Jeremiah and Genesis were just exaggerations. Now with the technology of the Hubble telescope which is traveling deep into space and sending back new images of the universe, science now agrees with the Bible that there are truly as many stars as there are grains of sand. God created you, knows you and loves you more than anything.
Our Creator is definitely more than enough for every person who has ever lived and will ever live. He is big enough to deliver you, wealthy enough to provide for you, powerful enough to heal you, and strong enough to deliver you. His unconditional love is infinite and He longs to give you exceedingly abundantly above and beyond everything you could ever imagine. God has a perfect plan for your life. Do not give up and never stop believing for your breakthrough because we serve a big God and His promises never fail! Matthew 19:26 says, “Jesus looked at them and said, with man this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PUBLISHED – 3/5/18
GOD IS ALWAYS WITH YOU
God has promised in His Word that we will never be alone and I consider this blessed assurance as a foundational pillar that supports our faith in Him. I trust Him completely and shudder to imagine drifting like a ship on the open Sea without a sail, a compass, or an anchor. May we be reminded that God is always with us, He knows our situation and always wants the best for us.
When we think about why we are here on this planet and what God’s plan is for us, we realize it would be wise to study His holy instruction manual. We observe Jesus in Matthew chapter 28 and verse 10 having a private conversation with His disciples. While trying to encourage and give them final instructions He said, “Teach these new followers to obey all the commands I have given to you and be sure of this: I am always with you, even to the end of the world.” This was not just a passing gesture like, “take care and I hope we meet again” this was a literal promise confirming that He was sent to dwell within those who give their life to Him now and forever. Many other passages declare that we are never alone once we invite Jesus to be our Lord such as Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
As a volunteer chaplain for a long-term health care facility for Veterans, I officiate special services and Bible studies, along with visiting and praying with the residents. A sad part of my duties includes being on call when a resident becomes very ill. This is when families and hospice are notified that the time is near and unfortunately these are often. I was called the other day and when I stepped into the room, I saw an elderly lady sitting with her back to the door next to the bed. When I moved around in front of her, I introduced myself and noticed she was holding her husband’s hand and patting his arm. He was heavily sedated and even with oxygen, he was having a difficult time breathing. I pulled up a chair and said a prayer and then she began to tell me how very much in love they were and how happy they had been. They had been married many years and did not have children. He had been in the facility for the last two years and along with visiting him almost every day, she had been trying to manage their affairs. With a brief hesitation, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “When my husband is gone, I will be all alone and I wonder who will take care of me?”
Throughout our life, we enjoy the happy times when we are surrounded by friends and family and if we are married we can always depend on our mate being there whatever may come. What a blessing to have a close relationship with our spouse and how attached and dependent we are to them. However, unless the husband and the wife pass away together there will come a time when only one will be left. I’ve watched both my mom and my mother-in-law walk through this situation and even though it’s been difficult, I’ve also witnessed a strength within these two remarkable ladies that was no doubt from the Lord. I talk to my mom all the time and she reminds me that we just need to take everything one day at a time. She has given her fears and worries over to God and this is what gives her peace. She believes this life is not the end and that she will be reunited with dad someday. It’s a great comfort to know that whatever may happen we will never be alone because God is always with us. Isaiah 41:10 promises, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
AN ORDINARY MAN WITH AN EXTRAORDINARY MISSION
Like many of you, I’m very sad about Billy Graham passing away. Those who are younger will probably not have the familiar connection with him like some of us older folks, but nonetheless, I’m sure his books and recordings will continue having a beneficial impact on future generations. Throughout my childhood, I remember my parents always dialed in our old television set to watch Billy Graham evangelistic crusades and even though as a typical child I thought church services were somewhat boring, I would still sit and listen. In fact, I may not have realized it at the time, but I’m convinced his messages had a positive effect on my spiritual calling and helped influence me into a life of ministry. Here is one of his more popular statements, “Being a Christian is more than just an instant conversion, it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Jesus.”
He had such a mesmerizing voice and would speak with such passion that you could not help but feel this was a truth that was being relayed from heaven. I believe his sense of urgency along with expounding the ever-important subject about Jesus being crucified and where we are going to spend eternity caused his audience to be riveted to their seats. I recall when my grandparents would come to visit and if Billy Graham was on, my dad would tune in as his parents also appreciated Mr. Graham’s ministry. My grandmother would pull out her handkerchief and every now and then she would wipe a tear from her eye. I did not understand what was going on at the time but after I grew up I realized she was being blessed and moved deep within her soul.
In the church where I grew up, we had prayer alters around the stage and as people would come and kneel down, it was common to see them weep. Some would cry because of a crisis and some were repenting and asking forgiveness and yet others were often filled with joy. I believe this is a wonderful and natural reaction as we sense God’s presence we can express how grateful we are for who He is. The act of finding a special place to meet with God and falling on our knees before Him can open our spiritual eyes to how much we desperately need Him. We need more messages about yielding our will and inviting Christ to be the Lord of our life as Mr. Graham would always point out. At the funeral, Franklin Graham presented this quote from hisfather, “No matter what your problem is, if you and I could sit down and talk, I would want to tell you one great truth: God loves you, and He can make a difference in your life if you will let Him. God loves you so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for your sins. When we open our hearts to Christ, He forgives our sins and comes to live within us by the Holy Spirit. He also gives us strength for the present and hope for the future.”
It’s estimated that in his lifetime he preached to live audiences totaling over 215 million people in 185 countries. This along with his books and resources is more than anyone else has ever relayed the gospel of Jesus. He knew what God wanted to say and was used as a vessel of honor to demonstrate the authority of God’s Word. Billy Graham was not perfect and I’m not trying to portray him as a saint, but it’s obvious he truly loved people and had a burden to make sure everyone knew about salvation and eternal life. He was an ordinary man that God used to accomplish an extraordinary mission! It’s never the charismatic personality, intelligence or ability of humans that can change another person, but rather it’s the power of divine truth that convicts the conscience and allows God to transform a life. The opportunity for you to be forgiven and accept the Lord is available right now as I close with this last quote, “God proved His love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, I love you.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A PRACTICAL WAY TO MAINTAIN GOD’S PEACE
Every now and then I’m asked why I do not express my thoughts about political and social issues. Of course, I have personal opinions about all that is going on just like you, but do we really need more repetitive commentary especially when it comes to confirming how disturbing the world has become? How could I help anything by joining in with the crowd to criticize and argue about problems which are politically and socially divisive? I’m not saying we are to avoid or hide from strife and confusion but we could at least limit our intake of negativity in order to keep from being emotionally overwhelmed. Since I am not a political analyst, I intentionally refuse to become tangled up in a meaningless merry-go-round of hopeless dialogue. Instead of multiplying the sorrow about what we already know, we can choose to seek a refreshing word of hope that can inspire and bring encouragement and this is what I’m focused on. Spiritual peace is not something humans can give to each other but comes as a gift from God when an individual seeks His presence. He is the only one that can renew a mind and transform a soul.
It does not take a genius to correlate the world’s anxiety to the daily overload of shocking and discouraging information. Thanks to the ever-increasing wonders of technology, we have a constant access to an endless flow of darkness and strife. It seems many are subconsciously drawn to having their senses stimulated by a constant news-feed, even though a large majority of the content consists of devastation and suffering. With television crime dramas, violent action movies, vulgar music, pornography, vicious video games, and horror films being so popular, I honestly wonder if many people are becoming addicted to tragedy. Is this attraction to sinister and disturbing events, along with the fixation for real-life crisis situations, causing us to lose a healthy perspective of reality? The gospel is called the good news for a life-changing reason and it’s vital to balance our intake of information in order to preserve our sanity and protect our spiritual peace. Let us remember that Jesus came to deliver us from evil and to give us victory over the darkness of sin. “Casting all your cares and anxiety upon Him; for He loves and cares for you” I Peter 5:7.
I heard a story the other day about a group of businessmen meeting for breakfast and were discussing the ground-breaking subject of how they all had slept the night before. They went around the table as each man relayed his comments. The first man complained about tossing and turning all night and made half-joking remarks about listening to the news before bedtime and how the negative reports seemed to upset him and cause an uncomfortable amount of anxiety. He also mentioned that maybe the coffee he had consumed did not help. The man across the table spoke up and with enthusiasm declared he had a wonderful night’s rest and was filled with energy and sincere anticipation to start the day. He added that he had used his go-to-sleep plan that had never failed to work perfectly. Of course, this interesting proclamation had everyone’s attention and they all wanted to hear about this secret. He said when he was a child, his father would gather the family together in the living room at bedtime to read the Bible and say a prayer. Afterward, he would go to his room and sleep with such an indescribable peace and contentment. He said it felt like the entire house was filled with a heavenly presence as a sense of safety and security would cover him like a blanket. However, when he left home and went out on his own, he fell away from spending time with God and developed the habit of going to bed distracted with the cares of the world. He went on to say that recently he and his wife were facing some serious situations and mutually decided to re-establish Bible reading and prayer before bedtime. He said, they were both amazed at how their sleep had improved and his attitude has changed from being worried and nervous to become more happy, content and positive minded. Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOPEFULLY, CANCER WILL SOON BE DEFEATED
It’s very sad, but most of us have known someone with cancer or maybe have heard a doctor tell us that we have the c-word. My wife Cheryl has been diagnosed with cancer twice but with surgery and radiation, she has been cancer free for about 12 years and we definitely thank God for that. Recently, my uncle was told he had lung cancer and family and friends are sending up prayers for him. Whatever the situation, there is always fear and anxiety when it comes to severe illness and in times of distress, it’s good to know that God is not only aware of our problems but also has the power to take care of any crisis. It’s evident that most people believe that God can heal because when someone they know is sick, they always ask for prayers and that iswonderful. Nonetheless, we can also know the Lord is very involved in the medical community as He gives science the intelligence to comprehend the human body and ideas for new treatments that can help us overcome diseases. However He chooses to intervene, we are forever grateful for His mercy and compassion.
I was listening to an interesting conversation the other day by a man named Jay Walker, a visionary that researches cutting-edge medical advancements. He said that every day the medical world has a deeper understanding about cancer and is on the brink of discovering new life-saving procedures and medicines. He explained that finding a cure for cancer could happen in the near future but for now, the attention is more focused on helping those who are diagnosed with the disease to live a relatively normal life. As medical technology has advanced over the years, we have seen other serious diseases become manageable and it’s widely believed that cancer treatments will also continue following this pattern. Mr. Walker went on to say, “For the first time in the history of the world, humans are learning how to control the operating code. Scientist are now manipulating the DNA, and are at the cusp of operating down to the instructional layer, which creates the proteins that create the tissues, systems, and organs of the body. It’s almost as if we’re inventing printing, reading, writing and thinking all at the same time in forms of medicine.”
It’s believed that most people actually have traces of cancer in their bodies but may nevermanifest the disease because of the slow advancement in cell multiplication. It’s also common knowledge that when cancer is detected through screening, it has been developing at least seven years. The hope is to find ways to slow down the progression of these bad cells instead of the radical surgeries and chemotherapy we are subjected to today. His personal time-lines were very encouraging with cancers of the blood being under control in five to ten years and all other cancers from ten to twenty years from now. With so much pain and suffering, I’m sure you will agree this is wonderful news and how exciting it is to know this terrible sickness will soon be defeated.
Going back to the discussion about God healing our physical body, I have people ask me about this regularly. We realize God can do anything, but I do not understand why He does not choose to heal everyone. I read where Jesus healed those who called upon Him and how He desires that we walk by faith but I also know there are reasons for everything good and bad and only God has the perfect wisdom and judgment to make all these decisions. Why are we sometimes disappointed? Again, I do not know and neither does anyone else. As humans, we do not have the capability to know everything about everyone. However, the one thing we can be sure of is that God is filled with love and whether He chooses to heal us now or in the life to come, He always has our best interest in mind. God is good all the time and we can live in peace when we love Him and trust Him with everything. No matter what happens in this life, I believe His promises are true and never fail.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 2/5/18
AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST
Someone said, “Our lives are defined by opportunities, including the ones we miss. Let us not weep over chances we have missed, but rather for the ones we did not take.” When I look back over my life, I can see where I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’ve also missed out on somewonderful opportunities. Maybe you are saying the same thing. If so, I encourage you to resist the temptation to live in regret. Humans are fallible creatures and we all make wrong choices but at least our disappointment reveals that we care and that’s a good thing. James Joyce said,“mistakes are the portals of discovery” and there is no doubt they can be a significant part of our learning process. I realize that living in denial is much easier than forgiving ourselves butrepentance is a more worthwhile endeavor than living with the overwhelming feelings of guilt and condemnation. The truth is we can either embrace the inclination to allow these negative thoughts to haunt us and flood our heart with sadness or we can resist this emotional torture by calling on the Lord to heal our heart and renew our mind. God’s plans and ways are bigger than our mistakes and lost opportunities. He is not only ready to forgive and restore us, He can fill our life with confidence, hope, and victory!
It’s common when suffering from regret, to be reminded of certain ones that we secretly blame for our failures. However, as the water is long gone under the bridge, there is no need to hold onand replay the scenarios of what could have been – you’ve suffered enough. It’s important to consider that walking around in this negative and stressful state of mind can lead to depression, anxiety, and even physical health problems. It would be wise to make a list of those we need to forgive and sincerely pray while making sure our name is at the top. You see, unforgiveness holds us in a spiritual and mental prison and giving it over to God is the key that opens the doorto freedom. We are the only one that can put an end to us living in the misery of an unchangeable past. Alice Walker said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they do not have any.” The Bible refers to the devil as the “the accuser” of the brethren and this is where these negative voices are coming from. Some may try to pretend these situations never happened or that maybe they will all just go away which sounds nice, butrunning away from reality does not work. Being honest with God and ourselves is the pathway to peace.
I love what the Apostle Paul said, “This one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, I reach forth to the things which are before me.” He is encouraging us to not only concentrate on the present but also look to the future and be sensitive to new opportunities. We have a tendency to deal with our problems our own way, but God wants to help us deal with this once and for all. Let go and allow Him to give you a brand new start as He’s ready to fulfill the dreams and desires He’s placed in your heart. He loves us and longs to forgive us and to restoreour dreams that seem to be lost forever. He can create new opportunities in ways we could never imagine. I believe our heavenly Father desires to restore the years that you’ve lost and give you a new vision and a fresh zeal to fulfill your destiny. Being positive and optimistic about your future is a deliberate decision. Will you allow the rest of your life to evolve into His character and continue to grow stronger in His truth? We know that nothing is impossible with God and His Word cannot fail. Psalm 103:11-12 is one of the greatest promises about our security and filled with the hope for all eternity. “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD’S LOVE MAKES EVERYONE UNIQUE
I’ve mentioned before about how most small towns have unusual characters who are disrespected and mocked as an embarrassment to the community. Like a folklore legend, these outcast individuals are remembered for their strange behavior while it’s hardly ever mentioned about who they really are. Recently the subject came up again about these odd men and women and I thought that instead of just feeling sorry for them, I could learn a valuable lesson about treating others with dignity. The notable recognition list included a few such celebrities as, shopping buggy man, barbershop man, dancing girl, Ahab the Arab, and a man they called “Eggs” who would sit on Main street day and night and just quietly watch the traffic. I’ve spoken with some of these people in the past and discovered they are not homeless or penniless, they just enjoy walking around and doing what makes them happy. They wave when people honk their horns and will gladly take a sandwich if you bring them one.
I read a story a while back, about two young girl’s that were playing on the front porch. As one of them raised up, she spotted an older woman coming down the sidewalk pushing a tattered baby carriage. She was wearing old wrinkled clothes but was not really doing anything wrong. Most people around town knew her as “crazy Mary” the lady who picked up odds and ends from the trash. As she quietly passed by the front of the house, the girl’s started mocking her and calling her names, laughing and giggling. Even after the woman was out of sight, they continued talking about her and judging her harshly until they looked up to see the father of the girl who lived there staring at them. He sent the friend home and calmly told his daughter to go upstairs and change into her church dress. She did as he said without saying a word and soon returned. He said they were going for a walk and on the way he wanted her to think about what she had done and to prepare an explanation about how sorry she was for acting like that.
After a while of awkward silence with only the sound of their footsteps on the sidewalk, they came to a little shack and the little girl knew they were at the right place when she saw the baby carriage sitting next to the front door. They both approached reverently and he knocked on the door. The lady inside slowly opened the door and the girl’s father said they had come to say hello if it was alright. She graciously invited them inside. The little girl looked around as her eyes tried to adjust to the darkness. It was a small room filled with trinkets and the basics of living and she watched nervously as the woman proceeded to make tea. Finally, in the awkwardness of the moment, the father spoke up and said that before they could partake in her generosity, his daughter had something she wanted to say. The little girl presented a seemingly sincere apology that passed his approval and he took the tray from Mary and placed it on the only table in the room. The conversation was about the weather and other topics of small talk until suddenly the father stood and thanked her for her kind hospitality. The walk home was again uncomfortable as the little girl’s mind was swirling with so many questions about not only what had just happened but also about all the other people in the world who live like this. Did something happen in Mary’s life that caused her to be this way? And then she thought about how people condemn this woman just because she’s poor (like her and her friend had done earlier).
When they arrived home, she went up to her room and stared out the window as if it were a portal to the unknown mysteries of life. She thought about how things are not always the way they seem and how everyone walks a different path within their journey. We are unique in our own way but just because we’re different does not mean we are bad or deserve to be treated harshly. Her dad never mentioned it again and neither did she. There was no reason to.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
SOMEONE REMEMBERS – SOMEONE CARES
It’s true that some people are healthier than others, but the uncomfortable facts reveal the human body is generally frail and vulnerable. I occasionally joke around with my Son-in-law about him being from another planet because he says he’s never been sick, but unfortunately, like all the rest of us, there will come a day when something will go wrong. As a minister, I’ve been around my share of sickness and pain and it truly hurts me to see others suffer. My father was a very sick man, and our family watched him go through years of agony. With my parents being faithful members of their church, they received countless thoughts and prayers for him to overcome his health problems. Why was he not healed? Well, I guess that question could also be asked about millions of others since the beginning of time and the answer is always the same – we really do not know. Do prayers work? Of course, but just because we do not see instant results or for that matter, any results at all does not mean the power of God was not working behind the scenes. I absolutely believe in miracles from heaven and have personally seen them, but we also need to remember this life is only temporary and its true meaning is to develop an awareness of humility, respect, and trust in the one who is in total control.
We’ve heard the old saying about how life was never promised to be a rose garden and we can see a lot of spiritual truth in this statement. In this light, we can also be reminded that every rose has its thorns. If our path was always smooth and we always had plenty of money and felt wonderful every day, we would not understand what it means to desperately seek Him. There would be no desire to pray or need to demonstrate faith which are essential spiritual building blocks in our relationship with God. You see, the Lord did not intend for us to worship creation and have the independence to live however we want. He desires that we worship Him the creator and live according to His will. Each person is given a few years on this earth as an opportunity to know God and allow Him to transform us and prepare us to live with Him forever, which is what life is all about.
Since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and God changed the way the human race was living, mankind has been given a much more difficult fate. Along with things like the atmosphere and the plant and animal kingdom being altered, our DNA is hindered by imperfections and susceptible to abnormalities and disease. These hardships and places of desperation are not only a reminder to keep focusing on the promises of heaven but a window of opportunity to draw nearer to Him. If you or a loved one is facing a serious illness, there is plenty of discouragement and negativity but at the same time are certain truths that can fill us with peace and joy. Having the right attitude even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death can change defeat into victory. Here are a few things that illness cannot do. It cannot stop our love. It cannot keep us out of heaven or hinder our faith. It cannot take away our peace. It cannot erase or ruin our memories. It cannot harness our courage or destroy our confidence. It cannot steal our joy. It cannot conquer our spirit. It cannot keep us from Jesus or shatter our hope. In Hebrews chapter 4 and verse 16 we are given this promise, “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
If we are in Christ today, we can say with all confidence that one way or another we will be healed. Whether in this life or in the next, God’s great love and mercy will make us whole! Today, may you be surrounded by His glorious presence as He ministers His comfort and peace to your mind, body, and soul. Someone remembers someone cares – your name is being whispered in someone’s prayers.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOPE IS CONFIDENCE THAT SOMETHING BETTER IS COMING
I have the privilege of being a community chaplain and along with this opportunity to serve I see a lot of heartbreaking circumstances that many people do not see. Every year at the holiday season it’s difficult for me to be filled with excitement because I’m surrounded by those who are facing major problems and will not experience the same blessings that most of us enjoy. This past Christmas and Thanksgiving, we were overwhelmed with those reaching out for help. The little children are so innocent and helpless and we have actually watched them open the jars of peanut butter and eat it with their fingers because they were hungry. We do not have to search in other third world countries to find people who are hungry and going through hard times – we have them in our own hometown. The last couple of months, I’ve been busy helping to coordinate food drives for the needy, but even though we helped numerous families, this did not resolve the problem. Boxes of food and clothing is a nice gesture but how can we help people escape from poverty? I know nothing is impossible with God as I remember Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. If this was not amazing enough, after everyone had eaten all they wanted, they took up twelve baskets of leftovers. Maybe instead of focusing on the size of the need, we should consider how big our God is!
Many of those filling out applications were grandparents who are raising their grandchildren because their children are in trouble. I could sense the anxiety as I listened and with no magical solutions, all I could do is pray for them and encourage them to keep praying as well. The drug epidemic has become so widespread that it’s affecting extended families and many of them cannot afford the financial burden. Another factor that is associated with poverty is the number of people who do not have a college education and are faced with accepting lower paying jobs. Add this to the ever-increasing cost of living and this creates a serious challenge to survive. I know when I’m dealing with difficulty I am stressed, but can we imagine the level of concern that many people deal with every day? Unfortunately, a significant portion of our society lives in a continual state of fear and depression about their inability to purchase food, pay their bills, or maintain reliable transportation. Many are worried about the basics such as having health insurance and being able to purchase big ticket items when things need to be replaced. I know there is probably not enough money in the world to fix everyone’s problems, however, I do believe with all of my heart that the God who delivered Israel from the Egyptians in Exodus chapter 14 can also deliver any of us from whatever problems we may be facing. Of course, I believe in doing all the practical things, but hope gives us the ability to remain optimistic (even when things seem impossible) with a sincere confidence that something better is coming.
We should celebrate Thanksgiving every day as an appreciation to God for giving us His blessings, however, if we are only basking in the delight of our own abundance we may forget about the individuals all around us that have a fragment of what we have. I know that some people will be quick to point out how hard they have worked to accomplish great things and that is a worthy point, but it’s also good to remember that we did not do it all by ourselves. It’s the Lord who empowers us with His wisdom and gives us the favor to succeed. May we consider where we would be today without His grace and mercy? It’s our pride that makes it easy to look down on those who struggle as we blame them for their own failures. Yes, many have made critical mistakes but that does not disqualify them from receiving God’s love and forgiveness or our compassion. Maybe we should try to see others as God sees them and demonstrate more humility instead of being judgmental. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name” Psalm 100:4.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE PERFECT WORD OF GOD
We apprehend this is not a perfect world and as humans we constantly make mistakes. However, when it comes to the Bible, there is a major difference. This book might have been transcribed by mere mortals but its content is not from this world. The holy scriptures are a collection of divine messages directly inspired by an Omnipotent God and were simply recorded by ordinary men. As one of the most popular and best-selling books in the world, it’s given much reverence and respect but as our postmodern society continues to evolve in their progressive arrogance, many individuals are now convinced with the false notion that the Bible is not true. Psalm 19:7 declares, “The law of the Lord is perfect” and Proverbs 30:5 promises that “Every word of God is pure.” These heavenly claims of purity and perfection are statements of heavenly truth from the only one who cannot lie. Note the text doesn’t say God’s Word is “mostly” pure or scripture is “nearly” faultless which leaves no room for partial perfection theories. “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19. We are reminded when Jesus answered Pilate and replied that He had come into the world to bear witness unto the truth. Pilate then asked the question, “what is truth?” and revealed that humanity is spiritually blind until God graciously opens their understanding. The truth was standing right in front of him but he could not see it.
There can be no agreement or compromise with the agnostic or the deist who believes that God does not care or intervene in the affairs of mankind. If we submit to the worldview that many of the Biblical accounts are not literal, we are left holding a mystery novel instead of the greatest revelation ever given to the world. Psalm 12:6 says, “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” Believing that God is perfect and that His truth is without error is the foundation of our faith! If the Bible is not accurate when it speaks of geology or genealogy, how can we place our hope in its theology? In other words, it’s either a trustworthy document, or it’s not. The Bible stands or falls as a whole and is a reflection of its author which come to think of it, all publications are! If a major newspaper were routinely discovered to contain errors, it would be quickly discredited. It would make no difference to acknowledge that, “all the errors are confined to page three” or “we regularly publish stories that are fabricated.” For any publication to be reliable in any of its parts, it must be factual throughout. Why would we waste our time reading anything that is a falsehood?
So, where does this leave the Christian who places their hope in the Bible as being the absolute truth? We must comprehend this controversy is not about a religious organization or tradition but rather is a spiritual war between truth and deception. As we continue moving toward a more politically correct age, we can agree that when it comes to Biblical sovereignty, the remnant disciples will continue to lose the support of community, friends, and even family. In fact, Jesus in Luke chapter 12 predicts how spiritual views will be the cause of much disagreement, strife, and even hostility. We can try to live in peace and step softly around controversial issues but eventually, there will come a time when the serious followers of Christ will be called to stand for what they believe no matter the cost. As the growing number of atheist, free-thinkers, and skeptics continue to become more militant and influential, we can clearly see an aggressive agenda to diminish the integrity of those who uphold and defend the Bible as God’s perfect Word and God Himself as the meaning and purpose of life. Are we prepared to stand boldly in our faith about God’s Word, even if it means persecution and the separation from those we love? God is absolute truth and the doctrine of Biblical perfection is extremely important because the truth does matter.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHAT ABOUT OUR BOX OF CHOCOLATES?
It’s hard to believe that 2017 is history. We have many things to be thankful for along with events and situations that unfortunately brought sorrow, pain, and disappointment. Forest Gump’s mom said, “life is like a box of chocolates” as we never know what we are going to get. I guess basically we can see the point, even though this seems to imply that even the worst of times would be no more than just another flavor of candy. However, in the real world, we can agree that we are not only unaware of what is coming our way, but also unprepared how these future events will change our lives.
I’ve had several people express to me how they did not feel excited about Christmas this year. I must admit that I agree and with me personally, there are a few reasons why. Over the years I’ve done some research about the origins of the holidays and let’s just say the more we learn the more we are accountable for. Another reason is with our kids now in their mid-thirties and married, we are still eagerly waiting for grandchildren. Without small children running around, the enthusiasm of the festivities is reduced to say the least. I must also include that the relentless bombardment of holiday advertising is enough to dampen even the most fanatical participators. It seems by the time we’ve been exposed to numerous Santa Clause salesmen, decorated trees, dinner parties, shopping excursions, holiday songs, movies, etc… we are more than ready to pack it all up and escape from the chaos. Maybe I’m turning into the Grinch or Mr. Scrooge, or could it be something more? Maybe, I’m sad because things are not the way they used to be. I keep thinking back when life seemed more simple and sincere. I miss certain individuals that are no longer with us and their absence has left an empty place in my heart. Yes, the world is rapidly changing and all of it is not necessarily for the better.
I also have thoughts about growing older. For those of us who are wondering who that white-haired person is in the mirror, I’m starting to feel a little nervous and maybe even stressed about my future. Issues like financial security for our retirement and questions about our health are like those unknown pieces of chocolate, but I’ve come to understand that I can plan my life through two different views. I can depend on my own abilities and allow my emotions to establish how I feel and who I am. Or, I can decide to draw close to God and learn how to trust Him with everything. The first choice is to live in fear and worry which is a very miserable way to exist. I know we are to use our mind and do everything we can to help ourselves, but there is likely to come a time when we will have a problem so large that we cannot fix it on our own. The second choice has everything to do with becoming very serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ. Surrendering our will to Him is the most difficult sacrifice we will ever make, but keep in mind that He also made the ultimate sacrifice for you because He loves you more than anything. A very common response to the topic of faith is, “you do not have a clue what I’m going through” and I realize that, however, the severity of our problems cannot change the reality of His truth. There are occasions like with John 3:16 when even the simplest message can awaken us to a brand-new way of living, but our part will always include embracing and believing that His promises cannot fail. Can you imagine how much peace and joy we could experience with Him every moment if we would trust Him with everything? It’s not essential that we know where God is taking us, what He is going to do or how He is going to do it, we just need to pull over, give Him the keys and let Him drive. This coming year, God desires to be the Lord of our life, no matter what flavors of chocolate are still in our box.