Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Sun is Always Shining

The Sun is Always Shining
December 29, 2014
Psalm 118:24  "This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."

I appreciate uplifting people and their heart to encourage.  Encouragement is truly one of the Lord's greatest gifts, because everyone needs it and we seem to be in short supply.  I can even appreciate the people who try to encourage themselves, filling their own heads with motivating self-talk, an internal and emotional pep rally to continue on in life.  Encouragement can come in many forms and we seem to subscribe to it whenever we need it most, regardless of the delivery method.  It comes in the form of gentle words from a faithful friend, colorful sayings on wall hangings, or cute pictorials on social media with hand-selected Scripture verses.  Whatever the method, encouragement has been needed since the beginning of man.  There has always been a time of gloom in every person's life, a valid reason for needing encouragement.  The psalmist needed it and so he penned many words of encouragement, first and foremost for himself, and now for you and me to read.

One such encouraging word found in Scripture is pretty famous.  We've heard it in this fashion:  this is the day that the Lord has made so I will rejoice and be glad in it.    We quote it in order to pull ourselves up from the bootstraps when life is tough, determining to find a reason to be thankful while trying to stand tall under the little black rain cloud.  That particular psalm, though not really written like we seem to quote it, was written when the psalmist was recounting gloom yet looking forward to the moment of salvation.  The moment of salvation being the day that the Lord had made.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter of Psalm 118, not just the one isolated verse.  It is quite alright to quote it to yourself if you need encouragement, though, realizing there will always be tough days ahead as you look forward to spending eternity in Heaven with the Lord.  It is important to determine to be thankful and glad even in the moments of the little black rain cloud.

I've personally come to realize that no matter how rough the moment of now, the sun is always shining.  No, I am not an eternal optimist who always finds things to smile about.  I've just come to realize that the sun, the huge ball of fire in the sky is always burning strong, even when I cannot see it.  The warmth of the sun is always coming down; it just might be blocked by the situation of the earth.  The rays are continually bright, but sometimes dimmed or covered completely by the clouds.  In life, there will be new moments of clouds but the sun is still shining.  Realizing this is an opportunity to encourage yourself, that the moment of now is simply situational, not a permanent stance.  It may FEEL permanent, but according to the psalmist, according to the Word of God, there will be an end to our time of suffering on this earth.  Salvation is coming, in fact salvation is here.

Our days on this earth are numbered and yet we feel like they are an eternal sentence.  The sun is truly shining, even right now, though you may not be able to see it.  It is shining in the literal sense and shinning on your not-so-encouraging situation.  I challenge you to allow your heart to be encouraged this new year, not with blind optimism, but with the knowledge that whatever may come in life, it is only a moment of cloudiness with an eternity of sunshine ahead.  Know that in your daily life, you may not be able to fully see the sun, it is there.  In the moments of cloud cover keep vigilant watch for the rays of warmth that will push though the cracks, beaming down on your face.  If only for a moment in your situation, you can be encouraged that this sun IS still shining.  The reality of your situation is this:  if the Lord is truly Lord of your life, then your salvation is here despite your circumstances, despite the situation of the earth.  You have far more reason to have hope than despair.  Your life WILL have more days of sunshine than rain.  In fact, your life will have an eternity of sunshine.  I guarantee it.  This SON is always shining!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 118, Col 1:5

Sunday, December 21, 2014

All I Want for Christmas

All I Want for Christmas
December 22, 2014
John 3:16  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

If you've spent any time in a church the last few weeks or on social media, devout Christians have been doing a great job reminding us what Christmas is all about---the birth of our Savior.  I don't know if it is genuine or not, but Christians seem to work hard at keeping our focus, at least outward focus, on what we are really celebrating, the birth of Christ.  Nonetheless, we still buy tangible gifts for other people and work hard so our children have plenty of gifts to open, too.  If we are aware of children who may have it rough this time of year, we even work hard to make sure they also have Christmas presents.  Aside from the amazing birth of Christ for a moment, it is also a fantastic time of year where people are a little bit more giving to others.  It's nice to see hearts warmed through giving.  It's also nice to see other hearts warmed when they receive at Christmas time (even if they are expecting something).

In fact, that's what the Lord was doing and a large part of what Christmas is fully about.  Yes, Jesus came as a baby in a manger, but the Lord gave His one and only Son to us.  It was the most lavish gift we could receive from the Lord, His Son, Jesus.  And even more important than that was WHY God did it.  He told us all it was coming, a Savior would be born.  Mankind was expecting it, the gift of a Heavenly King, incarnate.  But God did it because He loved us.  He loved you and me when He sent us His Son, and He loves you and me even right now.  There is a huge message of love in Christmas, and it is demonstrated through gifts.  The first gift was Jesus and it was the most loving gift the Lord could give, a gift we never deserved.

So, in keeping with a sometimes controversial tradition at Christmas time, I would like to tell you what I want for Christmas, and it isn't quite as unselfish as peace on earth.  What I want for Christmas is to feel the love of the Father.  Cognitively, we know He loved us when He sent His Son, but when was the last time you felt genuinely loved by the Lord for no reason at all.  I want people everywhere, at Christmas time, to sense the magnanimous love of the Lord in their hearts, not just one day out of the year but every day.  I want the love of the Father to permeate our beings whenever we think of Jesus, salvation, forgiveness of sins, or even when we see the symbol of the Star of David.  I want the Love of God be to so present in our everyday lives that it changes our behavior, our demeanor, and our attitude.  I want people, especially myself, to be filled with so much love of the Father that is exudes from our pores.  I want to be filled with so much love that other people want what I have.  Yes, it might seem selfish, but it's what we all want.

This Christmas, when you give a gift to those on your list, remind them not just of Jesus coming as a baby, remind them WHY Jesus came as a baby.....because the Lord loves them.  Read the story of the birth of Christ at Christmas, but don't forget to tell everyone the Lord loves them, that you love them, too.  Christian, you may not FEEL very loved right now, but that does not negate the unexplainable love of the Father.  He loves you and wants to remind you of this today.  If you can't feel the love of God, then stop making up reasons as to why He would have to love you.  So often, we shove out His love because we can't think of a reason to be lovable.  When you realize that He loved you BEFORE you were even born, then you realize His love was never based on your actions, but simply for the person of you.  So, it's OK to feel loved today, because it's true.  Merry Christmas.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, John 15:16, 1 John 3:1-2, 1 John 4:19

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Logical Faith

Logical Faith
December 15, 2014
Joshua 24:15  "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . .but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Most of us don't steal.  We realize taking things from someone else is wrong and that decision is woven into the fabric of our being.  We just don't steal and aren't even tempted to steal what doesn't belong to us.  We don't have to analyze it or wrestle with it.  If it can be defined as stealing, we don't need to decide if it is a good decision or not.  It rarely becomes an issue of temptation and if it does, the logical portion of our being rationalizes as to why serving jail time makes it simply not worth committing the crime.  It is not emotional; it is logical.  Faith, however, is not usually described as logical.  But I would submit to you that your faith should become logical over time.

It takes faith to believe in a God.  It takes faith to believe Jesus was crucified on a cross, rose again, and can forgive your sins.  After a while, you are able to experience God and His work in your life so much that it does not have to be questioned.  Your faith almost becomes a fact of your life, woven into the fabric of your being.  If you've been a believer for any length of time you become convinced of the Lord and His work; it no longer requires a leap of faith to consider.  You KNOW He is Lord and you never have to doubt it.  Your faith has become fact, or logical to you.  It is not emotional and you never need to wrestle with the existence of God or analyze His ability to forgive sins through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross.

This fact of your faith becomes the basis for continued maturity so the Lord's work in you can be complete.  He uses men and women who are sure of their foundation in Him.  The more wishy washy you are in your belief system, the least likely you are to be effective in your daily Christian walk.  The logical fact of your faith becomes something you can build upon and translate into every area of your life.  It affects your actions, your speech, your decisions, your future, your even your daily routine.  If your faith has not affected every area of your life, then maybe you should evaluate what you truly believe.  Deciding what you believe is critical, resolving that some things need not be questioned moving forward.  The Disciples KNEW Jesus was Lord and it didn't ever need to be argued.  They were then able to build on that knowledge in an un-emotional state, being effective in their lives without question.

If your faith can become logical to you, it is much easier to take a stance on every other area of your own personal life.  This isn't debating on whether murder is acceptable but making better personal decisions in the areas of divorce, abortion, and other lifestyle choices.  When your faith becomes logical to you, it is easier to make choices based upon the foundation that has become woven into the fabric of your being.  Those choices then become woven into your daily personal habits, which only make life so much easier.  Decide today what you really believe and solidify it as fact for your life.  Then move forward with this belief system intact, never doubting what you know to be true.  You'll be so glad you did.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Is 43:10, John 6:68-69, John 10:38, 2 Tim 1:12

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Get In The Boat, II of II

Get In The Boat, II of II
December 8, 2014
Matthew 14:22  "Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd."

After the Disciples' first ministry tour across the Sea of Galilee, they came back.  What a relief; they made it successfully.  Though there was that initial scary storm on the way there, Jesus calmed the waters and the ministry across the lake was positive.  They made it back home just fine.  After a few more miracles and life changing instructions from Jesus, He suggested it was time to go on another ministry tour back to the scary side of the lake with all the heathens again.  This time, though, Jesus told them to go on ahead of Him in the boat and He would catch up with them on the other side.  The Disciples reasoned Jesus would hitch a ride on another boat but they were confident enough this ministry tour to head out as instructed by the Son of the Living God.

Since, again, it was a long ride across the lake, the Disciples had much time for conversation.  Surely they might have discussed Jesus, His impact on their lives and their families, what they might experience on this next ministry tour, maybe a little conversation of the recent miracles or possibly some banter about the Pharisees.  Whatever the conversational distraction, they were shocked by what they experienced next.  They saw a ghost hovering over the waters.  Now this story is covered in three of the gospels and if you read it in all three places, you'll find at this moment that: Jesus MADE them go on ahead of Him, the Disciples were about four miles into the lake and had been rowing all night, it was now approximately three in the morning, it was the darkest part of the night, the lake waters were getting rough again, and there was a storm brewing.  And THEN they saw a ghost.

You'd think the Disciples had learned on the first ministry tour across the lake that Jesus was in control, but apparently not.  They were experiencing their second fright night and this time a ghost was coming at them.  They were afraid because Jesus wasn't in the boat with them; He couldn't rescue them this time.  Surely this time was different and they were all gonna die out there, drowning in the lake.  When it was clear enough so see the full figure of the ghost, Jesus had to TELL them it was Him and to relax, to not be afraid AGAIN.  Jesus was shocked at their fear and they didn't believe it was really Jesus.  Recall Peter questioned Him to prove it by allowing Peter to walk on the water.  Then Peter got distracted away from Jesus again.  Of course Peter began to sink in the water after he stepped out of the boat toward Jesus; he was afraid.  He was afraid on the first tour across the lake, and he was afraid this time around.  He wasn't fully confident yet in the person of Jesus.

This second ministry tour taught the Disciples another valuable lesson.  Though it may not seem the Lord is there, you are never beyond His reach.  Though it is in the darkest part of the night, the storm is brewing again, and you can't see Jesus, He is still a bigger God than your circumstances.  Jesus sent the Disciples on this ministry tour and He wasn't gonna let them die by drowning, despite their fears.  They left with confidence but since they were not looking at Jesus surely disaster was upon them when things got rough again.  Not so.  If you know the Lord sent you and if you know the Lord is bigger than your circumstances and if you keep your eyes looking for Jesus, then it will all turn out just fine in the end.  The problem is, like the Disciples, we aren't always looking for Jesus and we stare at the circumstances around us.  We get so easily afraid, forgetting the power of the One who sent us.  It is easy to get fearful but the Lord would say to you the same thing He said to the Disciples out there on the rough waters, "Don't be afraid, it's Me."

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
Matt 14, Mark 6, John 6

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Get In The Boat, I of II

Get In The Boat, I of II
December 1, 2014
Matthew 8:23  "Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him."

The Sea of Galilee was a huge player in the Bible.  It was an anchor in many stories, a baseline with which to measure.  Most, if not all, of the disciples were called to follow Jesus near the Sea of Galilee.  It is where Jesus declared He would make the disciples into fishers of men.  The Disciples started their tutelage under Jesus near the shores of the Sea of Galilee and many of Jesus' first miracles were within eyesight of that specific body of water.  The shores represented the start of the disciples' ministry.  Then Jesus did something crazy.  He told the disciples to get into a boat with Him and cross over to the other side of the lake.  The other side of the lake was full of heathens, a tiresome journey across a big body of water to a place where they might not be received well by others.  Prior to Jesus taking the disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the disciples hadn't spent much time over there.  It wasn't exactly a perfect tourism destination for Jews.

Crossing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee represented a challenge to the disciples, their first set of challenges as disciples.  In fact, right at the edges of the water before they left, Jesus discussed the costs and challenges people would experience if they followed Jesus. They were willing to get in the boat with Jesus though, because He was leading.  The Sea of Galilee was about eight miles wide, a journey by row boat that could take 6-10 hours depending on the strength of the rowers.  If the boat had a sail, it wasn't a big sail; it wasn't a quick jaunt during that day and age.  Because of the long journey across, Jesus decided to take a rest, after all, it was dark, a perfect time to sleep.  Then the disciples experienced their first fright night.  A rough storm arose over the waters; it was so rough they feared for their lives. Death was imminent and I'm sure some questioned why they decided to follow Jesus in the first place.

Jesus saved the day, but never mind Jesus rising out of a slumber and quieting the waters for a moment.  The disciples had followed Jesus into ministry, being led into the middle of a storm over deep waters where death seemed only moments away.  This was their first fearful moment in following Jesus.  They followed the Lord and realized real quick it wasn't always going to be smooth waters.  What is extremely interesting is the response from Jesus when He awoke from His nap in the midst of the storm.  Jesus, before He calmed the waters, rebuked the disciples for their small amount of faith during the time of rough circumstances.  Then Jesus asked them why they were so afraid.  He was dumbfounded at the disciples response to the storm.  They had just experienced the power of Jesus on the shores and He was leading them on this ministry journey.  He was curious as to why they thought Jesus was going to let them drown.  The disciples were worried about physical drowning but Jesus was more concerned about their spiritual drowning (their lack of faith and fullness of fear).

Christian, Jesus has called you to follow Him and He may have asked you to follow Him in a boat to an impending challenge, facing rough waters along the way.  He did not call you to die, but to live through the rough waters with faith and fearlessness.  If He has called you, it is for a purpose.  You have witnessed His power and authority on the shoreline, and now when the storms of life arise do not look at the circumstances around you but remember the power and authority of the Lord.  Remember who has called you and remember who is in the boat with you.  Don't look to the rough circumstance, realize who has placed you on the journey.  It might not be a smooth ride, but He isn't going to let you die.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Matt 4, Matt 8, Mark 4

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Does God Hate

Does God Hate
November 24, 2014
Revelation 2:6  "But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

I saw a group of demonstrators, as they were caught on camera for the whole world to see, and they held signs declaring what they were demonstrating.  One sign read: "God Hates [Homosexuals]."  The group who was demonstrating had identified themselves as a Christian group, associated with a specific Bible believing church.  As I watched their demonstration, their choice of chants, the terms in their slogans, I sank in my chair and became embarrassed.  Regardless of my views on homosexuality, I was disappointed and ashamed to be called a Christian alongside those same demonstrators.  We both carry the same badge in the name of Christianity, but we are far from the same type of Christian.  It is correct, homosexuality is spoken against in the Bible as a sin, but no where in the Bible does it say that "God hates [homosexuals]."  But lets take a closer look at the word "hate" and how it IS used in the Bible, because the word "hate" is used in connection with the Lord.

The Lord declared that He hated Esau.  Esau hated the Lord's ways and as evidenced by the Lord's actions toward Esau, the Lord did actually hate a specific person.  After Esau, there were disobedient Israelites in the desert.  The Lord, as evidenced by His actions in putting them to death, hated them, too, using those specific words. Then throughout the book of Psalms and Proverbs, the Lord is described as someone who truly despises and even hates certain practices, hating those who indulge in those practices as well.  This might suggest that God is a hater, but really and truly it is only out of disgust for the evil practices that God demonstrates such feelings.  The Bible never teaches that the Lord is a God of hate.

This would lead one to assume the Lord is a bigot, but not so.  The term bigot is to assign hatred on a random basis, based upon personal preferences.  He is a God of love who cannot tolerate detestable practices.  He hates sin and loves righteousness.  He is very fair and just and clear about it, giving us all full warning of His directives.  It is not random if we chose to indulge in practices which He detests.  The Lord gives full warning as to which actions He does not like.  If we indulged in such actions, then it is safe to assume, in the least, He hates our specific actions as well.  Does this mean we are hated by the Lord?  This is a question I will not answer, as it is the Lord's decision to make.  Let no man lead a campaign of hate, only a mission of compassion motivated out of love.  And any such mission of compassion must be backed by the full message of the Gospel, regardless.

The Lord instructs, actually mandates, us to love our neighbor and if we hate anyone we are in violation of the Lord's will.  To proclaim that God hates anyone is putting words in the mouth of the Lord.  I was not appointed spokesman for God and doubt there are many, if any, appointed spokesmen currently alive.  To declare whom the Lord likes or dislikes, loves or hates, is not for me or anyone else to suggest.  All we can do is teach the Word of the Lord found in Scripture and do so in a loving manner, regardless of how it may or may not offend.  Period.  Adding to it or taking away from it is misquoting the Lord and therefore a condemnable action as well.  The Bible teaches that God is Love and to suggest anything otherwise is a false teaching.  Let the Lord determine in His own mind on such matters and stick to teaching the Word of the Lord in a manner consistent with righteousness and gentleness.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 9:28, Deut 16:22, Ps 11:5, Pro 6:16, Is 1:13-15, Hos 9:15, Mal 1:2-5, Lk 6:27, Rom 9:12-14, 1 John 2:9-11

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It Should Be Better

It Should Be Better
November 17, 2014
John 16:7  "But I tell you the truth; it is better for you that I go away, for if I may not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you, and if I go on, I will send Him unto you."

Imagine if Jesus had stayed on the earth instead of ascending into Heaven.  His human body was meant to age, since He was born a human baby.  So instead of living thirty some years and ascending into Heaven, He might have lived another seventy years at most.  Suppose that happened.  Would that have changed His impact on the world?  Would more people have received physical healing?  Didn't His disciples carry on His healing ministry?  Eleven disciples were probably able to physically reach more people, because their human form could be in more places than Jesus at once.  If Jesus stayed another seventy years would that have improved His message?  Technically, the disciples wrote down what Jesus said and, again, they were able to take His written words to multiple places at once.

What if Jesus lived forever, in His human form?  If Jesus remained ageless, and continued on living, wouldn't THAT be better?  He could have continued to heal people and teach people about the Lord.  Everyone would believe He was the Son of the Living God, since they could witness His miracles.  People all over the world would travel to His ministry site and recieve healing.  They would believe in Him and believe in God.  That would be so awesome.  Or maybe not.  People saw His miracles first hand and did not believe.  Many people did not receive healing from Him while He WAS here.  In fact, while He was on the earth, He created more controversy by His physical presence than when He was only an idea.  While He was alive, all the political leaders wanted to kill Him.  Today, He'd constantly live under death threats, being forced into hiding.  Then no one would see Him.

No, Jesus said it was better that He physically leave the earth.  He said it would be more effective and more advantageous for us humans if He left.  I could create an argument both ways, but I cannot argue with Jesus.  When Jesus left He promised that in His stead, He would place the Holy Spirit, who would not just live on the earth but live INSIDE of us, empowering us to carry on the work of Jesus.  Let me say it this way.  If you have an electronic device you depend on; it must be charged.  You must constantly go to a power source and re-charge your electronic device.  It's a hassle and you have to leave it for extended times, sometimes even being without it if you don't have an opportunity to re-charge it.  Now imagine if your own body contained that power source.  Instead of having to leave your electronic device to get powered, you would always have a source of power inside your body.  You would never have to go to an outside source to receive power.  It would be so much more convenient and effective to have the power source with you wherever you went.

This is the same since Jesus left.  If Jesus was still here, we would all have to go to the source of the power constantly.  But since He left and gave us the Holy Spirit, we now have that SAME power source of Jesus living inside of us.  This is WAY better than having to constantly go get plugged in somewhere.  The original disciples didn't have the power of the Holy Spirit while Jesus was with them.  It should be better now that Jesus left, but somehow it doesn't seem that way.  Either Jesus was wrong or we are all missing it a little.  I would suggest we are not fully harnessing the power living inside us for effective everyday living.

If your electronic device needed recharging, and you had the power source inside of you, would you still take it over to a plug or docking station and leave it to re-charge?  No way.  You'd continue to use it, as it would be constantly under power!  This is how it should be in your everyday spiritual walk.  You have the power source inside of you since Jesus left.  It should be better to have Him living inside of you instead of having Him sit across from you!  Figure out how to tap that power source if you want to live an empowered life!  Jesus said it would be better and it should.  It's time to make it that way in your own life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
John 16:5-11, Acts 1:8, Acts 10:38, Rom 15:17-19, 1 Cor 2:4, 1 Cor 12:1-11

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Evidence Enough

Evidence Enough
November 10, 2014
John 14:11  "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves."

Evidence is proof, a visible sign of something.  You cannot prove something without evidence.  If you have evidence, there can be no denial of fact.  It takes evidence in court to convict someone of a crime.  It takes evidence to support a scientific fact.  Evidence can be freeing or damning, but either way evidence puts an end to an argument.  Jesus said that evidence in His personal life's work is what people should examine when determining His identity.  Jesus didn't simply sit back and declare who He was; He proved it while living out His daily life.  He demanded the evidence of His works be examined and weighed against Scripture.  He demanded that we arrive at a conclusion about Him based upon the evidence of His actions.

People's eyes were on Jesus, watching His every move.  The Pharisees could find nothing wrong with Him so they tried to drum up false evidence against Him.  Jesus was scrutinized from every angle and found spotless.  Not only was He found spotless, He was also found to be the Son of the Living God.  There weren't any witnesses from Heaven who could testify in court as to His identity; there were only His actions.  Jesus was found to be The Christ.  There was evidence enough to prove Him Holy and Perfect and from the Heavens above.

In light of the proof of who Jesus is and was, in light of the evidence of His actions demonstrating His identity, I would ask you a simple question.  What does the evidence say about your life?  What does the evidence of your actions say of your identity?  The eyes of the world are upon you, watching you, and unfortunately they are judging you.  What will be proven about your life and character while on this earth?  Will there be evidence enough to convict you as a Christian?  Is there evidence enough to determine your identity as a child of the Living God?  Do people even know that you want to be identified as a Christian?

After spending a few hours with you, there should be at least a sense of peculiarity about you, an intrigue as to your real identity.  If someone is around you for even a day, there should be no doubt in their mind that you are different from the rest of the world.  If your actions were to be laid bare, your life should prove you are a follower of Christ.  There is proof in the evidence of your actions.  Sadly, there are many Christians who could not be convicted of actually being of a Christian.  Their life and personal actions do not parallel the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, or even a love for their fellow man.  If you are going to live as a Christian, make sure your actions create enough evidence to determine your identity as such.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 26:59, Mark 14:55, John 13:35, John 14:10-12

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Taken As A Slave

Taken As A Slave
November 3, 2014
Ephesians 6:6  "Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart."

Slavery is a horrible thing, but unfortunately it happens.  Slavery is something understood by all generations throughout history, starting with the first book of the Bible.  Today, most understand slavery as kidnapping, physical bondage, and abuse.  But in the Bible, there was additional type of slave.  You could assign yourself as someone's slave to pay off a debt; there was no kidnapping involved.  This was not as palatable as indentured servitude, but a full form of slavery because you still became someone's property.  It was humiliating and done out of complete desperation due to a physical circumstance.  It was a last resort knowing there wasn't much lower a human could get.  I doubt even the warmth of a spring sunrise on your face could bring even momentary solace in any type of slavery situation.

Despite the deplorable circumstance of being a slave, the Bible said a person should keep his chin up and continue in life as if he is doing the will of the Lord.  How in the world could being a slave be the Lord's will?  It's not.  But the Lord recognized that horrible, desperate circumstances would put people in unsavory places.  He was saying that even in those stomach churning positions, a Christian should still find a way to serve the Lord with a good heart and a good attitude, maybe even with a smile on his face.  Wow, be a slave with a smile on your face having Jesus in your heart?  Yep.  You and I don't have smiles most days and we aren't even slaves.  We walk through life, frustrated by our circumstances and fail to serve the Lord in the lowest of places, even if we could pretend it was the Lord's will.

No one would consider slavery as the Lord's will, but we are instructed to act as if it is, because in that situation we can still move forward with the Lord's will for our lives.  We think the situation or circumstance of life that has taken us as a slave, away from the Lord's design, will somehow end soon so we may get back to living in the will of the Father.  Nope.  Right here, right now, we are to submit to the Lord and do His will, fulfill His mission for our lives in the midst of the path we perceive has derailed us from the perfect design of the Maker.

You may feel your situation has taken you as a slave, keeping your from doing what you want to do in life, or from living the life you thought the Lord intended.  Today is still the day that the Lord has made and you should rejoice and be glad in it, whatever it brings.  Each and every day is marked out with the Lord's will for your life despite the cheap circumstance in which you find yourself.  I will not suggest this is easy, because even if I can do something with a smile on my face, I still lie in bed at night complaining to the Father to change it.  I'm not saying you have to like the situation you are in, but I am suggesting in the midst of the daily activities you are forced to do, do them with all your heart, with a good attitude, because that alone is the will of the Father.

You may be a slave to your situation, but that does not remove your obligation to move forward in the Lord's will.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 118:24, Ecc 9:10, Rom 6:22, Eph 6:5-9, Phil 2:14-16, Col 3:23

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Oct 27, 2014
Luke 11:42  ". . . You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. . ."

If you wanted to lose weight, you might consult the advise of a weight lose expert.  If you wanted to improve your golf swing, you might pay a hefty sum for a few professional lessons.  If you wanted to become an investment genius, you might take cue from a successful billionaire, following his example.  If you wanted to improve your marriage, you might go to a marriage class or two.  The point is, if you really wanted to improve upon something, you would listen to sage advice from the one deemed to know the most.  Fortunately, in a few areas of life, we have access to just that guru.  Jesus offers some professional advice, yet seldom do we take it.  There is no weight loss clinic set-up blue print found in the Bible, but Jesus does offer a few recommendations for being a successful Christian.

He was speaking to the Pharisees when He offered His sage words of wisdom.  And though the words were directed at the religious elite, they were meant to apply to anyone and everyone who would listen.  Jesus was condemning the religious elite for tithing on the tiniest leaf found in their herb gardens, yet failing to administer mercy.  The Pharisees were being literal on the tithe, a full tenth of everything in their possession but did not have mercy for the downtrodden.  Jesus said they were foolish for neglecting to be such sticklers in the areas of justice, mercy, and faith.  He said specifically to do better at justice, mercy, and faith, without forgetting to tithe a full ten percent.  Jesus actually said they needed to administer justice, mercy, and faith as well as give a full ten percent.  Some people think Jesus never reaffirmed the tithe as a ten percent in the New Testament, but He did.

The guru, Jesus, said that in order to be a successful Christian, we need to administer justice, have mercy on the weak, be strong in our faith all while tithing a literal ten percent.  Jesus didn't give a list of options, suggesting to pick what we like or are good at, but four items to fulfill in the fullest.  So often Christians like to do what is easy for them and think they are doing enough, but its not.  I've read these words of Jesus to the Pharisees in two different books of the Bible in twenty four translations.  They are the same all forty eight times; leaving no room for interpretation.  No clarification needs given and there is no wiggle room on what Jesus meant or was saying.  Anyone who can read the Scriptures for himself will come to the same conclusion as to what Jesus said.

Jesus said it; read it for yourself.  Jesus gave us the four keys to successful Christian living and it is up to us to put it into practice.  If your chosen guru gave you personal advice on achieving our goals and dreams, you would probably take it.  Jesus has given you exactly this.  You must put it into practice, without picking and choosing which ones you might follow.  If you don't follow weight lose advice, you won't lose weight.  If you don't follow the right investment advice, you won't be an investment genius.  If you don't follow the advice of Jesus, you won't be and can't be a successful Christian.  Its time to start listening to the expert and following His advise.  He knows what's best and would never lead you astray.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 9:13, Matt 18:13, Matt 22:37, Matt 23:23, Mark 11:22, Luke 18:8

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Top Dog

Top Dog
October 20, 2014
2 Kings 3:11  "But Jehoshaphat asked, 'Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?'"

The Lord never intended for humans to follow anyone but Him.  Unfortunately, the Lord knows man needs a hierarchy of leadership, simply to maintain order.  If everyone followed the Lord wholeheartedly, there would be no need for a leader, political OR spiritual.  The first leader in the Bible was Moses; He was a spiritual leader first and foremost.  As the nation of Israelites grew in size, it was necessary to give them more formal leadership.  The Lord allowed a king.  The first king was Saul, who was a spiritual leader as much as a political leader.  The second king was David, who was a spiritual leader as much as a political leader.  The third king was Solomon, who was a spiritual leader as much as a political leader.  But even these first three kings fell short of being a respectable leader at times.

Over time, however, the kings became less and less spiritual leaders; they became dictators.  Sadly, this happened in only a few short years, not centuries.  In fact, the kings fell so far away from being spiritual leaders, that they required prophets if ever they wanted to inquire of the Lord.  When reading the Old Testament, you'll notice the kings would get themselves into a pinch, then as a last resort they'd call for a prophet to inquire of the Lord.  The kings were so far from a relationship with the Lord that they could not hear His voice.  They didn't even know how to pray, let alone receive a word from Him.  Sadly, this is still true today of our leadership, certainly political leadership and sometimes even spiritual leadership.

We live in a time when political leaders refuse to have a strong public relationship with the Lord, lest they lose political constituents.  We live in a time when our church leadership gets so caught up in the politics of the position, that they too fall short of a perfect relationship with the Lord at times.  I imagine it's hard to be the top dog in any situation, the pressures of the people pulling you away from a relationship with the Lord.  At least in the Old Testament they still had prophets who would inquire of the Lord.  But today, who do we have today inquiring of the Lord for direction?  No longer are there spiritual leaders so great that they can speak on behalf of the Lord.  Yes, after Jesus, we all have the opportunity to become a spiritual leader, but few have ever followed in the likeness of the Apostle Paul even.  Some churches aren't even a reflection of the Bible, but of society and our worldly practices.

This presents opportunity in our spiritual leadership.  You and I have a duty to have a right relationship with the Lord so we may follow His direction and inquire of Him directly.  We must do this in every area of our lives, and let it affect our actions and choices, especially our political choices.  If our actions and choices would speak so loudly that we demanded political leadership to be spiritual leadership, our world would be a different place.  If our church leadership followed the Lord wholeheartedly, even through controversial decisions, our world would be a different place.  If our churches and businesses were filled with spiritual leaders our world would be turned upside down.  The top dog was always supposed to be a spiritual leader.  Maybe it's time YOU take on a leadership role?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
1 Sam 23:3-5, 1 Sam 28:5-7, 2 Kings, 1 Chron 10:13-14, Is 8:11, Jer 2:2-8, Jude 1:19

Saturday, October 11, 2014

No Miracle

No Miracle
Oct 13, 2014
Psalm 78:4  "We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done."

Miracles are amazing.  We've all seen one or two, maybe even experienced them ourselves.  There are times when we thought we needed a miracle, too, hoping the Heavenly Father would step in and defy the gravity of our situation.  But for every miracle we witness, it seems there are ten missed opportunities for the Lord to perform one for us.  I know I've seen the opportunity come and go, with the Lord deciding it wasn't time for a miracle.  Or maybe there is another reason why the Lord doesn't step in and defy gravity sometimes.  I've searched the Scriptures and have found something interesting every time a miracle happens.

Just in keeping to the New Testament for a moment, if there was a miracle performed by the Lord, then the Lord was given glory and news about Him and His mission spread. It seems the miracle was not just a healing ministry for the recipient or situation moving moment for someone else, but the Lord was honored and thanked, with a testimony ensuing.  A testimony is what the Lord appreciates when He is willing to defy gravity.  He wants you to honor and thank Him for the experience and He wants you to talk about it to others, declaring the Lord's amazing works in your life.  So often, we think our situation and miracle is isolated to us.  Nine such men thought their miracle was isolated to their desire for the miracle; they were not appreciative in the Bible.  Jesus healed ten men of leprosy, but only one thanked Him.  The nine men didn't thank Jesus so He chastised their actions, or lack thereof.  What a shame, to experience a miracle from Heaven only to be chastised by the Lord for not being thankful for it.  I doubt those men could have ever expected a miracle from the Lord again.

The Bible says we are to be thankful in everything, especially if making a bold request from the Lord.  If you are not thankful going ahead of the miracle, are you really going to be thankful after one has happened for you?  Sure, maybe you'll appreciate it for five minutes, but a year later are you still going to brag about the Lord's goodness to you?  Are you going to tell about it, declaring the Lord's amazing works in your life?  Are  you going to be thankful to the Lord for the rest of your days?  Are you going to share the experience with others right away and even ten years later; will you still be talking about it when you're old?  If you've experienced a miracle years ago, are you still appreciative and talking about it now?  It would be a good idea to revisit the miracles you've experienced, talk about it with others and declare the goodness of the Lord in your life.  Develop an appreciative attitude about the things the Lord has already done for you in your life.  Make a list of all the good things the Lord has done in your life and determine to share it with five or six people, making a purposeful effort.  Notice what happens when you do this.

In the Bible, a few times it was appropriate to keep the miracle a secret, because of safety's sake and the need for discretion to reduce the crowds.  But it had the opposite effect.  No where in the Bible is it recorded that a miracle recipient was able to keep it a secret.  In fact, it seems when they were asked to keep it under wraps, the news of it just spread like wildfire even more.  It is a natural response to a life-changing moment.  You have to talk about it.  If you've had a life-changing moment from the Lord, and you haven't talked about it in a while, even acknowledging it private between you and the Lord, maybe it is hindering future life-changing moments from the Him?  I'm not an expert in making miracles happen, otherwise I'd have more of them in my own life.  But I do know a thankful heart, being willing to share what the Lord has done is a critical piece of the miracle equation.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Ps 105:2, Ps 107:22, Is 63:7, Matt 4:24, Matt 9:31, Mk 1:43-44, Lk 17:11-17, Phil 4:6

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Give to Get

Give to Get
Oct 6, 2014
Luke 6:38  "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

The Bible teaches reciprocity very clearly.  You will reap what you sow.  If you sow hatred then you will reap a harvest of it.  If you sow kindness then you will reap kindness in return.  The Bible also says that if you give to others, then it will be given back to you, with an additional helping on top.  It is important in reading scripture to understand how and why it teaches about reciprocity and giving, though.  Many people have not received back what was sown, which makes the teaching controversial, putting its validity into question.  It looks bad on scripture and makes people doubt the Lord and His Word.

When the Bible introduces reciprocity, it does so from a logical perspective, telling how things work, not necessarily making recommendations.  It is similar in teaching about gravity.  Gravity is a law of nature that works very distinctively.  The Lord's teaching about reciprocity is much the same way, describing a law of His nature.  If you do this, then xyz will be the result.  It never says you should do something just because you want xyz to happen.  In learning fully about reciprocity, you must dive deeper into Scripture, other than the introductory course on gravity.  The Bible teaches about kindness for the sake of being kind, not because you want to only be treated kindly.  The Bible teaches about forgiveness because it is good and healthy to forgive, not simply because you want to be forgiven.  There is a heart issue involved if reciprocity will work correctly.  If your heart is selfish in your motive for giving something, then your return will be void.  If you are only giving because you will GET, then you've missed the teaching entirely.

It is true the Lord will not unleash reciprocity in your life unless you have sown the correct item, however, it must be sown correctly.  Giving to get something in return is not giving, it is a bribe.  You cannot bribe the Lord or the Lord's kingdom.  The Bible is clear that a bribe comes from a selfish heart, one the Lord refuses to honor.  The Lord will not be bribed and the Lord will not be held hostage to a faulty understanding of reciprocity.  If you haven't received back from that which was sown, check your motives in sowing it in the first place.  Chances are, you are keeping score, tallying up what you've given, waiting for the gifts to return to you in full force.  It ain't gonna happen.

Even if you've give with generous motives, if you look for your reward, then you still missed the boat, not fully understanding the Lord.  The word "give" means to push it away from you knowing it will not return.  If you are looking for the return of it, then you didn't give it, you were trying to lend it.  Giving in the Lord's kingdom means pushing something away from you that you should not expect to see again.  If you do see it returned, great, but if not you should still be glad you gave.  If you've ever regretted giving, then you gave with the wrong motives.  The Lord says He loves a happy or cheerful giver, those are the only ones for whom I've ever seen reciprocity work correctly.  They were glad to be rid of whatever they were giving away.  They didn't hold tightly to it; they were glad to see it go.  They are the true givers.  If you hold tightly to what you're giving, then you aren't really giving it.

Here is a tip in giving; don't keep track of what you give.  In fact, forget you ever gave it and do it with a smile on your face being glad to get rid of it.  If you see it in return, then be genuinely and overwhelmingly shocked.  This way you'll be a cheerful giver and reciprocity will then work correctly, knowing you never demanded it to come your way again.  If reciprocity didn't work for you, then your measure of giving wasn't giving at all.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Pr 17:8, Gal 6:7, 2 Cor 9:5

Sunday, September 28, 2014

God's Got Your Back

God's Got Your Back
Sept 29, 2014
2 Thessalonians 1:6  "God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you."

Have you ever been in the woods and crossed the path of a mother bear protecting her cubs?  No?  Neither have I, because I wouldn't be here to tell about it.  Apparently you don't want to come near the den of a mother bear when her cubs are little; she will protect them at all costs, without holding back.  She will destroy anything she deems a possible threat to the livelihood of her young.  The young cubs will be unaware of it, but the mother bear considers anyone and anything a credible threat.  She will attack, with only a small, short warning.  You'd better heed the small, short warning, lest you be mauled.  I have five children, and I can promise this is the same for human parents.  They will protect their children instinctively against any perceived threat, however rational or not.

The Lord is the same way, despite our understanding of its timing or validity.  He will protect His children to the extreme.  In over half the books of the Bible, the Lord promises to avenge, repay, destroy, annihilate, punish, and plunder those who rise up against His children.  He vows His protection to His children similar to a mother bear and her cubs.  I would not want to cross a mother bear and I would not want to cross the Lord.  In the Old Testament, the Children of Israel received the promise of the Lord's protection.  In the New Testament, it extended to those who were and are willing to be grafted in to the family of the Lord.

The Lord demonstrated His protection time and again in the Old Testament.  It is well documented and those on the wrong end of His stick could attest to it.  The Children of Israel of the Old Testament, by extension today are living in the nation of Israel.  This is why many nations extend the aid of armed forces to Israel against those who would see it destroyed.  It is also why many nations are afraid of Israel, because they can read of the Lord's promises of protection in the Bible.  They are afraid of offending Israel, lest they offend the Lord and wake the mother bear.

If nations today make military decisions and alliances based upon the writings and promises in the Bible, it would be reasonable to consider doing the same.  If you consider yourself a Child of the Lord Almighty, then you've been promised His protection.  The Lord's got your back.  But this is the same for ALL the Lord's Children.  It goes both ways.  You might stand taller knowing the Lord is behind you, but be careful how you treat your fellow Christians.  In a moment of weakness on the highway or in line at the grocery store, you might threaten one of the Lord's little lambs.  This would and could awake the mother bear inside of Him, protecting His child.  If you want the Lord's protection then be aware that His wrath could come against you someday for your actions toward another.  Just because the Lord has your back does not mean you can do what you want in stepping on others, or threatening the spiritual livelihood of His child.

It would also go well with you to make genuine alliances with others who are considered a child of the Lord.  Make sure you stay on the correct side of the mother bear.  If someone has risen up against you; just sit back and watch the Lord work.  No need to step in and help Him out.  He's got it!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 32:35, 1 Kings 2:44, Job 21:19, Pro 24:12, Is 59:18, Jer 51:6, Zeph 2:8-11, Rom 2:6, Rom 12: 17-19, 2 Tim 4:14

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dedication Vs Love

Dedication Vs Love
Sept 22, 2014
1 John 4:19  "We love because he first loved us."

I am a dedicated person, completely and almost perfectly.  I am a dedicated husband; I've never cheated on my wife and I come home to her every single night.  I am a dedicated father, being physically present for everything and anything possible.  I am a dedicated follower of Christ, obeying the Bible to the fullest extent and attending church when it's available.  But just because I'm dedicated, doesn't mean I have love for any of those things.  I can be dedicated to attending my children's soccer games, but that doesn't necessarily mean I love going to them.  I can be dedicated to serving in the church, week in and week out, but that doesn't mean I love serving in the church.  I can be dedicated to the Lord in practice, but that doesn't mean I actually love Him.

Dedication and Love are two different things.  If you have love, you will naturally be dedicated.  Dedication can and should be an outflowing function of love.  If you love something, you will be dedicated to it.  But you can choose to be dedicated to something without actually loving it.  It's called going through the motions.  Maybe at one time we loved something and became dedicated to it, and out of habit we kept up the dedication.  But maybe we've lost the love portion of the equation.  I know each and every one of you can think of an activity you do on a daily basis because you're dedicated to it, but you certainly don't love it and may not even like it.  A growing number of people have jobs they actually despise, but because of dedication, they go to work day in and day out.  It is a shame to have to work without loving what you do there.

It's also a shame to go to church and not actually love the reason why you're there or who you are there to worship.  Maybe you were excited in your love for the Lord at one time, but continue to go to church out of dedication.  While church attendance is an excellent habit, it is critical to find ways to renew your love for the Lord.  Marriages end in divorce all too often because the two people never renewed their love; they realized one day they were married out of dedication only, then decided not to be dedicated anymore.  This is also how Christians leave the church.  Christians realize they are only serving the Lord out of dedication, not love, and decide to end the dedication because it is hollow inside.  Dedication, without love is consuming and leaves you empty.  But love, it doesn't realize the dedication; it comes naturally.  Dedication keeps records of personal sacrifices, but love doesn't even realize a personal sacrifice has been made.

How do you love again, after simply being dedicated for so long?  You must find the reason you loved the Lord in the first place.  Scripture is very clear we ultimately choose to love the Lord because we realized His extravagant love for each of us.  I can tell you the Lord loves you, but unless you experience it, you will not love Him in return.  If you've ever loved the Lord, it was because He demonstrated His love to you in some fashion to the point you were overwhelmed with Him.  This made you love Him.  You couldn't help it; your love for the Lord simply flowed from your heart.  But you might be calloused now, unimpressed by His love and underwhelmed by His affection for you.  This would cause you to go through the motions, forgetting you ever loved Him.  It is time to renew your love for Him and find that reason, your own reason to love Him.  He never stopped loving you.  He is worthy of your love, but you must realize His love for you first.  Experience His love today and stop going through the motions.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 51:10, Is 40:31, Rom 12:2, 2 Thess 2:13, Rev 2:4

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Unexplainable Events

Unexplainable Events
Sept 15, 2014
2 Kings 18:29  "This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand."

Hezekiah was a king in the Old Testament who was regarded highly for following the Lord.  Hezekiah tried to rule as the Lord would have him lead, as he put his faith and trust in the Lord to accomplish the task.  There was an enemy king desiring to rule over Hezekiah and all the Children of Israel, but Hezekiah did not submit to this enemy king, nor did the Lord want them to submit to foreign reign.  Hezekiah tried to resist this king's army but wasn't successful at keeping him away.  In an effort to appease the foe for the defiance, Hezekiah took gold and silver from the Lord's Temple and tried to bribe the enemy king.  It wasn't working and now Hezekiah's back was against a wall.

Hezekiah had tried to do the right thing but when it appeared it wasn't working he made a bad decision by giving away gold and silver from the Lord's storehouse.  The war wasn't over yet, but Hezekiah got fearful of annihilation and tried to fix the situation according to what seemed his only option at the time.  Because Hezekiah got fearful, the Lord's storehouse had to pay the price.  This was NOT part of the Lord's design; the Lord never intended to give gold and silver to this foreign king.  Hezekiah made a decision out of fear and it was a foolish one.  He knew he wasn't supposed to submit to this foreign king's rule, but could not get out of the situation on his own.  The bribe didn't work and the enemy king wanted it all.  Now they were really pinched.  So, what does everyone do when they are out of options?  They pray and they pray hard.

Thankfully, the Lord was in control the entire time and was willing to fight on behalf of His servant Hezekiah and the Children of Israel.  In the middle of the night, while Hezekiah and the whole nation were sleeping, the Lord sent His angel of death into the camp of the enemy king.  Somehow, someway, an unexplainable event happened in that camp at night and 150,000 soldiers were killed.  No one knows what happened and the only wording in the Bible says the angel of the Lord put them to death.  How He did it will remain a mystery but nonetheless the Lord accomplished the unexplainable without Hezekiah or the fighting men doing a thing.  The Lord stepped in and moved His mighty hand in a way that only a God could.  A covert operation could not have killed 150,000 men while they slept.  It was nothing short of a miracle and the Lord moved when everyone else was asleep.  No one can explain how it happened, we just know it did happen.

Whether your back is against the wall and you're making bad decisions or you simply do not know how to resolve a situation, the Lord has a solution and does not have to explain Himself.  He can and does work when we are in a pinch and prefers to work in unexplainable events.  You cannot predict His methods or try and rationalize how He will work it out.  He worked on Hezekiah's behalf and provided a solution no one expected or could have predicted.  Hezekiah didn't propose a few options and let the Lord pick.  Hezekiah didn't tell the Lord how to work it out; the Lord doesn't take marching orders from anyone.  The Lord didn't ask how best He could perform His job; He doesn't solicit survey responses from a man.  The Lord can work in any way He deems best and will do so when the time is right.  You and I are not to determine when the time is right but the Lord will work in an unexplainable event when He decides it is time to reveal His glory in it all.

I'd like to know how those 150,000 men died in their camp that night but it's better it remains an unexplainable event.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  2 Kings 18, Pr 14:12, Pr 16:25

Sunday, September 7, 2014

More Grace Please

More Grace Please
Sept 8, 2014
2 Corinthians 12:8  "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me."

Paul, after suffering some type of affliction, asked the Lord to remove the suffering, to  change the course of Paul's discomfort.  The Lord did not.  As close as Paul was to the heart of the Father, still there were prayer requests unanswered.  The Almighty Father, in His infinite wisdom, chose not to give Paul what he asked for during prayer.  The answer was a resounding, "No!"  The Lord wasn't being a jerk about it, but for some reason decided it was better NOT to give Paul what he wanted, even though there was nothing wrong with Paul's prayer request.  Paul wasn't asking for a million dollars or a dream vacation.  Paul wasn't asking to be famous or loved by the masses.  Paul was simply asking the Lord to remove a "thorn from his flesh."

While I am not the Heavenly Father, if my child came to me and asked me to remove a thorn from her finger, I would gladly help.  I would graciously and generously do all I could to remove the discomfort, to ease her troubles.  But the Lord, when Paul made such a request, denied to ease his discomfort.  This gives tremendous insight into the Lord's character that some people will never admit.  If a Christian has an unanswered prayer, or the Lord has denied the request, it becomes easy to judge the situation.  We cast our opinion on the subject, suggesting there is sin or a lack of faith.  Neither of these two things were present in Paul's unique circumstance.  There are times when the Lord simply deems it better to allow us to walk through the difficulty.  As a father, I would graciously and generously remove the affliction, but the Lord, full of grace and generosity, allowed the affliction to continue for Paul.  He allows it to continue for us sometimes, too.

How and why would a gracious and generous God allow such discomfort, especially after someone pleaded with Him earnestly, time and time again?  Such an answer to that question will never fully be known or revealed to us, but clearly it is for the better.  By NOT answering our prayer request, the Lord is somehow doing a better service to us and His kingdom.  The Lord is perfect, unfailing in His love.  The Lord is sovereign and works all things out for the best possible result.  If that means NOT giving us what we want is better, then He will allow us to remain without.  He promises to be gracious and generous, but without a perceived resolution to our situation.

This may not sit well with your current circumstance or your desire to see your scenario changed, but it creates an opportunity.  Paul, during his time of pleading, did receive a response from the Lord.  The Lord told Paul that grace would overflow in his life.  The Lord said His grace would be sufficient in place of the answered prayer.  The Lord was saying His power and presence in Paul's life would be enough to help him endure any troubling times.  The Lord didn't want Paul to have a changed situation, the Lord wanted Paul to have more of Him.  Your desire for a resolution creates the opportunity to desire more of Him.  If you don't have an answer to your prayer request after quite some time, you simply get to ask for more of His presence in your life.  If you have all of Him, you have all you need, despite your current situation or lack thereof.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 9:1-32, Rom 8:28, 1 Cor 15:10, 2 Cor 12:8-10

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Be Known

Be Known
September 1, 2014
1 Corinthians 8:2  "Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God."

Some people have a way of being made known.  I have a friend who can walk into a room, and because of his personality everyone will instantly know he is in the room.  I also have a friend who could walk into a room and be there for hours before someone would notice her.  Her presence is not loud or obnoxious; in fact she can be quite invisible at times.  Either extreme is not necessarily desirable at all times.  It takes maturity to find a balance and temper a strong personality.  Likewise it takes great fortitude for an introvert to come out of his or her shell.  Scripture says that neither is actually important, though, nor is be renown. There is only one thing that matters and that is being known by the Lord.

There are many important people in this world but they may only matter to those in this world.  I can think of a famous scientist, who professes to be an atheist, denying the existence of the Lord or a place called Heaven.  The atheist may be very well known in certain circles but he does not know the Lord.  Even worse, the Lord does not know the atheist.  The Lord knows who he is, but has no relationship with him.  All of the atheist's knowledge and notoriety are of no eternal value.  It is better to be known by the Lord than to be well known.

The Apostle Paul says that knowledge puffs up but love builds up.  He was trying to communicate that worldly knowledge can do nothing for the eternal state of a person's soul, though it make him a great mind or famous.  The only thing that truly matters is to be known by the Lord.  To love the Lord is to be known by the Lord.  Love, the act of loving the Lord, makes a person valuable, because he is known by the Lord.  A man's knowledge does not make him valuable in the Lord's eyes.  Making yourself known when you enter a room is pointless.  Who should care if people know who you are or that you are in a room?  It is better to be known by the Lord than to make your presence known in a room.  The only way to be known by the Lord is to love the Lord.

What you know, who you know, or who knows you---none of that matters to the Lord.  Don't be confused with your identity in the world and being known by the Lord.  Yes, the Lord knows you exist; the Lord knows the atheist exists and even knows the number of hairs on his head.  But the atheist does not love the Lord, therefore has no deep and personal relationship with the Lord.  When the atheist dies, the Lord will have no record of his name in the eternal book of life.  The atheist will go straight to hell, unless he decides to love the Lord.  Only then can an atheist by truly known by the Lord.

You may not be an atheist but my question to you is this: are you known by the Lord?  I am not asking if the Lord knows who you are or how many hairs are on your head.  I am asking if you are known by the Lord.  The amount of love you have for the Lord will measure the depth of His relationship with you.  To be truly known by the Lord is to truly love the Lord.  How much do you love Him?  How well known are you?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gal 1:10, 1 Cor

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't Get Rebuked

Don't Get Rebuked
August 25, 2014
2 Tim 3:16  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. . ."

In the Old Testament, a rebuke was considered something rather harsh.  It was more than a tongue lashing, it was something shameful because of foolish and embarrassing actions done out of arrogance.  Most of the time, if there was rebuking to be done, it was by the tongue of the Lord or one of His prophets.  In the New Testament, little changed; Jesus was the one administering the rebukes.  At one such point, the Apostle Peter even tried to rebuke Jesus.  Jesus quickly rebuked him in return.  In the 1800's rebukes were performed by professional clergy, a verbal punishment dealt publicly to an offender in an effort to stop him from his folly.  It was a public tongue lashing that left the offender a bit ashamed of his arrogant actions.

Today we don't rebuke publicly or privately.  It's offensive to rebuke and we would never want to offend someone, right?  If you verbally offend someone for their actions you're labeled as someone with hatred toward another.  No one wants to be a hater.  Consequently, we've erred on the other side in our churches by avoiding difficult topics.  We seldom call out offenders for their actions.  We brush it under the rug or ignore it all together lest we become judges of one another.  We argue that love covers a multitude of sins. Unfortunately, rebuking is still necessary (and required) for spiritual offenders who are living arrogantly against the Gold Standard.  The Gold Standard being the Lord's Word found in Scripture.  If it is spelled out in Scripture then we are to live by it and correct accordingly.  Notice there is a difference in the Bible between correcting and rebuking.  In 2 Timothy, Paul says that Scripture is useful for both rebuking AND correcting.

The difference between correcting and rebuking is rather simple.  You can correct someone who has a teachable attitude.  Someone who is unteachable must be rebuked because of his arrogance.  If you'd like to avoid a rebuke altogether, simply maintain a teachable attitude.  Unfortunately, there are many in our church walls who are not teachable.  So how do you approach someone who is living outside the Gold Standard?  Paul says you should use Scripture.  The Lord didn't need Scripture during His rebukes, neither did Jesus.  Since they are the authors of Scripture, enough is said; they ARE the Gold Standard.  You and I, however, are to use Scripture to set the offender straight.  Paul says that rebuking with Scripture is reserved for believers.  If you rebuke a non-believer, you are simply inviting a mocking from a fool.

But how do you know WHEN it is appropriate to rebuke someone?  Oftentimes, it is such a sensitive area that we want to tiptoe around the subject, even pretend a rebuke is not needed.  Again, we don't want to offend anyone, right?  Offer it as a gentle correction first, if the person has a teachable attitude then it will go over smoothly , especially if you are in the appropriate position of authority.  If the person does not have a teachable attitude after a gentle correction, and he professes to be a believer, then a private strong conversation is warranted (without yelling). Hint: never do it publicly unless you are Jesus or a prophet.  If you ever get rebuked, you'll know it's time to reduce your arrogance a few notches.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Lev 19:17, 2 Sam 22:16, Ps 119:21, Pr 9:7, Pr 13:1, Pr 19:25, Pr 28:23, Ecc 7:5, Jer 2:19, Mark 8:32-33, Lk 17:3, 1 Tim 5:20, 2 Tim 4:2, Rev 3:19

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Enough is Enough

Enough is Enough
August 18, 2014
Ephesians 6:4  "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

The Apostle Paul gives instructions to certain individuals, and at first glance, one particular instruction seems geared toward fathers.  But the Scripture is much more than that; it is a glimpse into the character of the Heavenly Father.  Paul writes that fathers should not exasperate their children, but instead train them and teach them in the ways of the Lord.  Seems pretty straightforward but if you unfold the verse, you can find hope for your own life, regardless of having children or not.

The verse's intended meaning for 'exasperate' is one of pushing a person to the point of anger or resentment.  It is easy to push a child beyond his or her tolerance level.  The child's immaturity must be developed and can be pushed over the edge.  A child can lose patience pretty quickly, and become emotionally exhausted.  As a parent, you must learn your child's tolerance levels in any area (work, play, academics, family dynamics, etc).  It is critical to know when enough is enough.  Sometimes enough comes sooner than later and a parent must back off.  Too much instruction in a day can be overkill.  Too much academics in a day can be overkill.  Too much working in a day can be overkill.  Too much playing in a day can be overkill.

This verse, however, isn't just about earthly fathers knowing when enough is enough for their children.  The verse tells you how the Heavenly Father works.  Starting with the creation of the universe, The Lord has always demonstrated His instructions and commands to us first, BEFORE He requires anything of us.  His very first demonstration was taking a rest on the seventh day after creating the Heavens and the Earth.  On the seventh day He rested, then instructed us to do likewise.  This is true for all the Lord's commands.  He does not require anything of us unless He is willing to do the same.  He wants us to be just like Him.  The same goes for the verse found in Ephesians 6:4, telling fathers to be patient with their children's tolerance levels.  If the Lord is asking a human father to know when enough is enough, then He also knows when enough is enough in our own lives.

Remember that the word 'exasperate' means to push to the point of resentment or anger.  The Lord is not willing to push you or take you to the point of resentment or anger.  He will allow you to be stretched and tested and pushed to your limits, but knows when enough is enough.  He is not too harsh, despite your opinion of your circumstance.  If you feel you are in a situation where the Lord is not coming to your rescue or putting a halt to the seemingly overbearing situation, then it means He knows you have the fortitude to make it through successfully.  If you are not making it through successfully, then you are not drawing upon all the endurance levels the Lord knows are deep down inside of you.  He will not treat you like a baby; He expects you to work hard through this emotional turmoil, but He has equipped you to come through it successfully, without resentment or anger.

He also knows when enough is enough.  The Lord will be sure to relent if He knows you are at the point of being damaged.  You are being refined in the fire and the He knows when that refinement is perfect.  He will take you out when you are pure gold.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ex 20:10-12, Malachi 3:2-3, John 13:12-17, Rom 8:28, 1 Cor 10:13

Sunday, August 10, 2014

No Fear

No Fear
August 11, 2014
Psalm 112:1  "Praise the Lord.  Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands."

There is one particular message repeated in the Bible throughout its entirety.  The message is a command:  fear the Lord.  Scripture says the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom (meaning you cannot be wise by any standards unless you fear the Lord).  Fear in this instance is defined by a healthy respect, an honoring of His authority and position in our lives.  Fearing the Lord is submitting to His design, His template for your life and of those around you.  Fearing the Lord is obeying His commands and following in all His ways.  Fearing the Lord is trusting He will work everything out just as He desires.  It is no small task to fear the Lord; it takes a lifestyle.  But the Bible says there are great rewards for those who fear Him.

I'd like to say I fear the Lord to the fullest extent of the definition, but if I look at my life in retrospect this is not the case.  Scripture says those who truly fear the Lord will reap the benefits through a lifestyle reward.  Here are some of the benefits on that list:  wealth and riches upon their household, their hearts will not be shaken, and they will have no fear of bad news.  There are more items on that list but those three alone are pretty amazing.  I am certainly not a wealthy man by any standards, and my heart has been shaken on more than one occasion.  Most importantly, I know I have lost sleep over the possibility of bad news.  But the Bibles says if you truly feared the Lord, then you will not cringe at the possibility of bad news; you would have no fear.  Those who fear the Lord will have no other fears in life.

While all of us would certainly appreciate more money or more emotional stability, it would certainly be a miracle if no one ever faced another fear in this life.  The full sentence in the Bible reads, "They will have no fear of bad news."  It doesn't suggest that bad news will cease to exist.  Bad news will always abound.  But those who truly fear the Lord will not fret when bad news arrives.  I've sat in expectation of layoffs at work, or the test results from the doctor.  My household has lost sleep over the possibility of losing a child.  Bad news is common it seems but our reaction to that bad news could be quite un-common if we truly feared the Lord.

If you've ever lost sleep over the unknown, it was a sign you were not fully submitted to the Lord in that moment.  Our fear of the situation represents a lack of fear in the Lord.  We are all guilty of this, sadly.  It's not because our minds don't comprehend the enormity of God, but sometimes we lose sight of who is actually in control.  If we truly feared the Lord, we would relinquish control, knowing the Lord would and WILL intervene when He deems it most appropriate according to His design and our own best interests.  Fearing anything in the moment is not fearing the Lord.  My life and your life seldom represent this.

Be honest with yourself and admit you were afraid of bad news this past week.  Be honest with yourself and admit you have a fear of what could happen tomorrow or in the next coming days.  Admitting you have fears is not a weakness, it's an opportunity to realize what areas of your life are not fully submitted to the fear of the Lord.  We can all finish this sentence, "I trust the Lord, except when it comes to . . ."  This is your first and foremost priority area.  It is a chance to fear the Lord to the fullest extent of the definition.  Fear the Lord and you will have no other fears in this life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 27:1, Ps 112, Proverbs 2, Romans 8:28, 2 Cor 9:7-9, Phil 1:14

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Worthy to Worship

Worthy to Worship
August 4, 2014
Psalm 150:6  "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord."

Sin separates us from the Lord.  Our hearts are ugly and even the smallest of sins committed on a daily basis are enough to cast us into the lake of fire to spend eternity in Hell.  Harsh as it sounds, you and I are not worthy of anything in the sight of the Lord.  No amount of good works will overcome the sin in our lives.  The only way to the Heavenly Gates is through the blood-work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  This presents a question in my mind, then, regarding our praise and worship of the Almighty King of Heaven.  Can our sins be such that the Lord does not want to hear our praises?  Can our hearts be so blackened that we shouldn't even bother with praising the Father Above?

We all have thought, at one point in our lives, that the Lord couldn't hear our prayers.  Regardless of its truthfulness, we all have believed the Lord must not hear us at times, blocking our prayers because of our sin.  Clearly the Lord can't hear us, we speculate.  But just because He doesn't answer in the manner we expect doesn't mean He cannot hear our prayers.  The same is true with our praise.  He can hear it---all of it, despite the sins committed this week.  No man is worthy enough to praise the Lord perfectly.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the Lord's expectations.  Even the most righteous man is not good enough for the Perfect One.  It still takes the blood of Jesus to allow the most righteous of men to be in the Lord's presence.  So, if the Lord expects and hears the praise of one, He expects and hears the praise of everyone who is willing.  He wants it from everyone or else He will command the rocks to perform the task.

Regardless of your sin the mere act of praise requires faith in the Lord, a belief in Him who is All Powerful, and an acknowledgment that He is to be praised.  If you can utter an ounce of praise, then it is worth uttering.  In order to praise Him, you already understand who He is and that he is worthy of praise, which is an act of confession all its own.  So, if you've ever been to church and thought the Lord didn't want to hear you worship Him because of the sins you committed this past week, think again.  If you are really insecure about it, confess those sins and praise Him anyway, regardless of how you feel inside.  He deserves praise even when you deserve punishment.  If you can acknowledge that He deserves praise, that's good enough to praise Him.  Truly, forgiveness can be found in the act of praise, especially since the act of praise requires a confession of His greatness in comparison to your weakness.  He is worthy to be worshiped and you are worthy enough to worship Him.

There is one instance, though, when the Lord suggests your act of worship would sound a little sweeter to His ears.  The Bible says when you bring a gift to the Lord and remember your brother has something against you, go first and be reconciled with your brother, then bring the Lord your gift.  Being angry with your brother is just as sinful as committing murder (look it up).  Your life should be an act of praise, constantly.  But if you sin, it does not preclude you from worshiping Him, it only makes it more important.  The Bible is clear, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."  Make sure it is praise, though, and not just lip service.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Ps 18:3, Ps 145:3, Matt 5:21-24, Luke 17:7-10, Luke 19:38-40

Sunday, July 27, 2014


July 28, 2014
John 19:30  "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

Unfinished projects are everywhere.  I'm sure you have a project started but is lacking in completion.  You might even have more than one unfinished project.  I know of people who started projects twenty years ago and have yet to complete them.  For whatever reason we get sidetracked or derailed from finishing them.  Life gets in the way, we lose motivation, run out of finances, and we get tired.  There are many valid reasons for unfinished projects and there are many invalid excuses for unfinished projects.  But we all have them.  Unfinished business weighs on us, dangling overhead but we pretend not to see them lest we get stressed about it.  Our intentions are very good but our follow through is lacking sometimes.

Jesus completed His major project, thankfully.  He came to die for our sins.  Period.  When He breathed His last breath on the cross He spoke those important words, "It is finished."  I am so glad He did not get sidetracked or lose motivation.  He kept His eye on the task, knew what He had to do, and completed it.  He got the job done and because He did, you and I can now have eternal salvation.  Imagine what your life would be like if Jesus didn't finish the work, if you did not have the hope of being in Heaven someday.

Everyone has something to do for the Lord.  He has given us all talents and special gifts required to complete it.  This is not new to this generation.  In the book of Revelation, the Lord sent a word to one of His churches.  The message said, "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God."  It was for those nearing the end of life but did not complete what the Lord asked of them.  Sadly, this happens everyday.  People die having never finished what the Lord asked of them.

You, too, like Jesus, have a project to complete.  It is unique to you, designed specifically for you by the Lord and no one else can do it.  I don't know what that is, but at one point in your life you were excited for a project from the Lord and started out doing the work.  But you may have lost motivation.  Maybe there was a valid reason for not finishing the work.  You have unfinished business to do for the Lord and even as you read these words your heart is burning within you for something specific, something you started years ago but never finished.  The Lord's plan doesn't change.  If He asked you to do something then He still wants you to do it.

No man is told when he will die.  Your life is not a guarantee and everyday is an opportunity to complete what the Lord has asked of you.  If you put it off another day, sadly that day may not come.  Today is the only chance you'll get to begin again at finishing what you started.  Hopefully, when you breathe your last, like Jesus, you'll be as completed in your task.  I pray one day you will be able to declare, "It is finished."

If there is something hindering you from finishing your project for the Lord, I pray right now in Jesus Name that the roadblock would be moved.  I speak to the mountain in your life to be thrown into the sea, that you may continue on in the work you started!

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ezra 5:15-17, 1 Thess 5:1-11, Titus 1:5, Revelation 3:2-3

Sunday, July 20, 2014


July 21, 2014
2 Corinthians 1:20  "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God."

There is a word that we say at the end of a prayer and seldom do we think of it as anything less than a book-end to that prayer.  The word "Amen" is simply a sign that the prayer has ended, that it's OK to open your eyes and look up, maybe begin a new task.  We say it at the end of a quick prayer before we eat, we say it at the end of a long prayer in church.  We say it during a time of deep intersession.  Some don't even say it anymore, thinking it is an outdated word, too cliche or church-speak.  I would suggest to you that it is a very important word, almost a prophetic word if you use it correctly.

The word "Amen" has its roots in Aramaic and it was adopted by the Hebrews possibly thousands of years before Jesus.  Jesus used it only specifically, and it would benefit us to figure out how to use it correctly.  The word means: to be confirmed, supported, or upheld.  It is a confirmation of truth.  Jesus used it at the beginning of a few sermon instances, which is translated, "verily, verily I say unto you" or "truly, truly I say to you."  He was using the word Amen to confirm He was speaking the God's honest truth about a subject, declaring its truth into existence (but it is not translated as "Amen" since we understand its use to be at the END of a prayer only).  Fun fact, Jesus never actually used the word "Amen" to conclude a prayer (read John chapter 17).  He didn't even use it to conclude what we know as the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew chapter 6.

In the book of John, Jesus says the phrase, "I tell you the truth," twelve times.  In each instance, the Greek word for "Truth" is translated from the word "Amen."  These are the only times Jesus used the word, "Amen."

When the Bible declares that the Lord's promises are "Yes" and "Amen," it is saying that the Lords promises are correct and they will be confirmed.  It is saying "Yes" He can do it and "Amen" it will come true.  Jesus taught us to use the word "Amen" correctly but it is lost in translation.  There are two sentences in the Bible that could revolutionize your life if you understood them the way Jesus intended, found in Mark 11:22-24.  Jesus spoke the words.
    "And Jesus answered them, 'Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.'"

Go back through those words and replace the word "Truly" with the word "Amen," using a correct understanding of the word "Amen."  It might read like this:
    Have faith in the Lord.  What I say is confirmed and will come true.  Whatever you ask for, believe it will come to pass and do not doubt in Me to do it for you.  Believe that you have already received it and it will come true.

Jesus wanted you and me to understand the word "Amen" should be used to speak things into existence.  We have commonly adopted it at the end of a prayer, hoping to convey a sense of truth to what we are asking for in prayer, but seldom do we actually use it as any other thing than a book-end to prayer.  Jesus didn't use the word to support a request, He used it as a declaration, to support a solid fact.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 6:5-15, Mark 11:22-24, John 17, 1 Cor 14:15-17

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith
July 14, 2014
Matthew 12:39  "He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.'"

Believing that Jesus is Lord requires our human logic to take a leap of faith.  The voice inside of you, the still small voice of the Lord whispering to your heart, it takes a leap of faith to follow it.  Believing what is written in the Bible to be true requires our rationale to take a faith walk.  Maybe if Jesus appeared to you in person, it would be easier to believe?  Maybe if Jesus painted a sign, a visible sign in the sky, it would be easier to step out and do what you think the Lord might be asking you to do?

Sadly, Jesus did appear in human form and there were many who did not believe in Him.  Sadly, Jesus performed amazing miracles and painted various signs but still people did not believe in Him or follow His leading.  Jesus said that His generation was wicked because they wanted a sign, too many signs before they were willing to believe in Him or step out in faith to follow His leading.  Sadly, there are many today attending our churches who never fully take that leap of faith into believing in Him.  Sadly, there are many Christians today who never step out and follow the still small voice into taking a unique road the Lord would like to lead them down.  We ignore the voice or the leading and ask for a sign instead.  We want a megaphone in the room and aren't willing to take a leap of faith because it requires a leap of faith.  We want to KNOW!  We want to be SURE!

The older I get (and I'm not that old yet), the harder it is to take new paths, trusting that the leading is from the Lord.  Taking a leap of faith is risky.  Moving to a different city, changing jobs, adopting a child--all things that require a leap of faith, especially if there is no human rationale for doing it.  When Peter stepped out of the boat as he saw Jesus walking on the water, it required a leap of faith to believe it was actually the Lord calling to him.  Would you and I have stepped out of the boat with Peter?  I'd like to think I might have stepped out, but the reality is I might have wanted a brighter sign or secondary reassurance.  I would have wanted to see the water turn to hard ground before I was willing to take a leap of faith to step out of the boat.  There is just too much at risk, too many things could go wrong.

Jesus has so much more for you and me in life but it takes a leap of faith to acquire it.  Jesus has so much more for you and me to do for Him but it takes a leap of faith to accomplish it.  Jesus has so much more life for you to experience but it takes a leap of faith to begin the adventure.  Living a Christian life requires more faith the longer you live it.  Living a Christian life means living with a degree of whimsy as you must be willing to go where ever the still small voice would like to lead you.  Since I have been alive, I've never once seen a sign painted in the sky or heard a voice from Heaven speak like a megaphone but I have stepped out in faith, even leapt.

The Lord is speaking to many of you even now, and has been for a while but you've been waiting for a sign painted in the sky or that megaphone voice.  Those things aren't coming.  It's time to take a leap of faith.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Kings 19:12, Matt 14:22-33, Heb 11:6