Latitude, Attitude & Gratitude

     David spent most of his life on the run. He knew how to survive physically, as well as spiritually. There are so many lessons we can learn from him! Let’s start in the beginning, with the words of his very first Psalm.  
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,    nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
     David outlines three important principles that will enable you to keep your head above water on life’s stormy seas. Let’s break them down.

Latitude

     Latitude and longitude are terms that define your location on Planet Earth. I am borrowing the term to apply to our surroundings. What do you cherish? Where do you spend your time? What influences dictate the course of your life? David cautioned us to walk not in the counsel of the ungodly. What you listen to; what you watch; the type of people you surround yourself with can cloud your ability to hear from God. Your “latitude”, or surroundings, should reflect your determination to lead a godly, Christ-centered life. So said Paul in his advice to the Church at Corinth:
“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Attitude

Our next piece of advice concerns our attitude. David sounds a second warning: don’t stand in the way of sinners. We were commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ. Sinners can see evidence of the grace of God, and experience the love of God through our testimony. Our walk and our talk should draw people to Christ, not drive them away. Jesus taught on the importance and transparency of our attitudes in Matthew:
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)

We are either drawing people to Christ, or pushing them away. Where do you stand? 

Gratitude

The third piece of advice concerns the necessity of being grateful for what God has done for us. Life’s ups and downs, it’s many trials and tribulations should not cause us to end up sitting in the seat of the scornful. Every event in life, good or bad, brings much needed truth and wisdom to our lives. A spiritual man or woman can see God’s hand in their lives, and is exceedingly grateful for His loving guidance. 

A Final Thought

We must jealously guard our spiritual lives. Our zeal and fire can be quickly extinguished if we aren’t careful. David outlines the progression that takes you from spiritual growth to spiritual decline.
     You begin the downward spiral as you are walking. You are active, but moving in the wrong direction. You suddenly find yourself standing. Your progress has come to a screeching halt. You are no longer gaining ground. It becomes only a matter of time until you are seated. The downward spiral has left you bitter and unmoving. This can happen quietly and quickly to any one of us who takes his or her eyes off of  Christ. 
     Be careful, my friends, and make Him the centerpiece of your life today. 

The God of Second Chances

     Onesimus. I am thinking that a majority of Christians have no idea who Onesimus is. His story is tucked away in a Book of  Philemon, a place few Christians visit. The Epistle to Philemon is a mere 335 words long, the shortest of Paul’s epistles. Those who take the time to explore the book will come away with an enormous revelation: God is the God of Second Chances!

     Starting in the eighth verse, Paul pens an appeal on behalf of a man who once served as Philemon’s slave- Onesimus. Note that the word “Onesimus” means “profitable or helpful.” Onesimus was  a runaway slave, and could have faced death if caught and punished. He was not only a slave, but a fugitive as well.

     Paul saw something different in Onesimus- profit and potential. Well over half of the Epistle to Philemon centered on Paul’s passionate plea regarding the fate of his new found friend. When Paul looked at Onesimus, he didn’t see a fugitive and a slave. he saw a Christian brother  who had turned his life around. What an encouragement that is for all of us.

     That speaks directly to our own relationship with God. This journey through life isn’t easy. We are knocked around by the world, bruised and battered. As you get older, you look back on life desperately trying to validate your existence. It’s easy to focus on failure, and major on minors. We look back on missed opportunities and “what could have been”. We grade ourselves based upon  how the world defines success. Don’t forget poor Onesimus! He had little to brag about, yet the Apostle Paul jumped to his defense. He saw qualities that others couldn’t see by a simple glance. 

     I am reminded of a similar experience between the Lord and Samuel. In Chapter Sixteen, He gives Samuel a lesson on what God sees as truly valuable. God’s priorities are clearly laid out:

     “for the Lord sees not as a man sees: for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

            It is evident that God is not primarily concerned with what we’ve accomplished, but what we have become. Just like Onesimus, God views each of us as “profitable and helpful”. Paul had no reason to trust Onesimus based upon his track record. He was a fugitive. Paul came to the defense of Onesimus because he knew his heart was in the right place. Yes, people around you can sense if your heart is in the right place. Most importantly, God can sense if your heart is in the right place. 

    Rejoice in the fact that we have a God who sees value in us, even when we don’t see it in ourselves. He is indeed the God of Second Chances!

           Music in a Minute

“Second Chances” Performed by Orville Wright

Growing Old Part 1: The Message

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war.” (Ecclesiastes 9:18)

     “Wisdom” appears 234 times in the Bible. That would indicate that it is an important concept to grasp.  It has been defined quite properly as “knowledge gained from the multitude of experiences in life.” You can have an extensive knowledge of facts, yet not have the wisdom to connect the dots and put those facts to good use. Experience, however, leaves an imprint.  Our life experience shapes us, empowering us to teach lessons learned to the generation that follows. I am indeed comforted that my life experiences, some traumatic, can be somehow used to help those coming after me to succeed where I might have fallen short.

     I want you to bear in mind that I have not always appreciated nor heeded the voices of those that have gone before me. I look back upon a life of missed opportunities and false bravado. Believe me, you will be able to easily identify missed opportunities as you look back upon your life with targeted regret. That honesty makes us valuable to others.  

     In many instances, those with the most to offer have been set aside by a society that values youth, momentum and charisma. It is curious to note that the study of history in our schools has likewise become negotiable. Our short attention span embraces the here and now. I am reminded of the Prophet Jeremiah’s advice found in his Sixth Chapter: 

     “Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”  (Jeremiah 6:16)

      Each of us has our message. It has been shaped by experience, both good and bad. Christians call it our “testimony”. This wisdom is far more valuable than I could have imagined! Each testimony is different,  and each brings important truth to those that follow us.

     Before I lay out my important points, let me give you my resume. I have seen good times, and bad. I have felt what it was like to be used of God behind a pulpit to plead with the Holy Spirit of God to work among His people. I have also experienced the devastation of standing behind the pulpit looking down at the casket of my youngest son, wondering what I could possibly say at a moment when my world receded into the background. I have drawn from the well of sorrow, as well as the well of joy. Wisdom is gleaned from sadness, as well as joy. Let me pass along some important points that have been drawn from my life experience.

  1. Nobody likes boundaries, but they’re there for a reason.

     Jeremiah urged us to identify and stay on the “old paths”.  The old paths are worn. They’ve been used before, and proven to be safe and reliable. Oh, I know we all have an adventuresome spirit. We want to go where “no man has gone before”.  There is a better alternative. God has laid out in great detail instructions you will need to be happy and successful in this life. You can choose to strike off on your own. You can choose to ignore lines painted on the road as you drive, as well. I doubt you trip will be successful. Those lines, like admonitions from scripture, are there to protect you.

     The world will tell you that there is no “right” or “wrong”. If we disagree, then I have “my truth”, and you have yours. The problem with that belief is that it contradicts the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He stated, without wavering, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

     We live our lives within physical boundaries. No one is suggesting that we abandon them. The world would be chaotic and dangerous without non-negotiable guidelines universal in nature.  We can’t speed, assault our neighbor, rob a bank or engage in a thousand other behaviors deemed disruptive and unacceptable in society.

     What about moral boundaries?  That’s where the Bible comes in- the arbiter of moral values and behavior. Are they not equally as important? Aren’t qualities such as kindness, compassion, truthfulness and holiness ingredients for a peaceful, happy life? The more we identify and apply God’s boundaries to our daily life, the better that life becomes. Read the Book. Believe the Book. Apply the Book. Peter wrote that living a Christ-centered life marks us as a “peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9). We are guided by a “truth” that “sets us free” (John 8:32).  Doesn’t that sound better than the trauma and drama of the world? 

     2. Nobody likes trials, but they’re there for a season.

     Jeremiah did not say the “old path” was necessarily an easy path to walk. This life brings good tidings as well as bad news. We cannot avoid trial and temptation, but the promise of Jeremiah should give us the strength and courage to go on. “Ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). That is our promise. As we walk through the storm, we gain strength, wisdom and compassion.   A second point is important to remember in the midst of tragedy and turmoil. Trial and tribulation  will pass. Press forward in faith knowing that “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time and a purpose for sorrow, but it won’t last forever. Joy is in the forecast. If today is awful and unbearable, happiness may be lurking just around the corner.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5)

  The ball is in your court. You can wander, or you can wonder. I wonder how much stronger I would be if I applied myself to learning and applying the Word of God to my life. I wonder if I have to live from crisis to crisis, or can I rise above the fray? Why not cease wandering endlessly without peace and purpose. Deposit faith and trust into a heavenly account, and you will be able to withdraw peace and strength in a time of trouble.  Bible

      

Music in a Minute

Ministry in a Minute now in Translation!

cropped-candle-lit.jpgWhat a blessing to be able to offer Ministry in a Minute, now translated into 100 different languages! I have been hoping for this opportunity to reach our friends in the Philippines in every way possible. Please let me know how accurate the translation is. What a great day!  We pray for each of you, that God may guide you and grant you wisdom and peace. Choose your language from our menu on the bottom of the page!

When Death Darkens Your Door

     We are by our very nature emotional creatures. Each new day brings new circumstances, and we adjust our emotions accordingly. Life unfortunately includes an appointment at some point to be introduced to the harsher realities of separation and loss. Grief often strikes suddenly and convincingly. Grief can bring even the strongest Christians to their knees in a heartbeat. Dealing with death and loss is one of the most difficult challenges of life. We are left with the fundamental truth that:

Grief is but one example of the tapestry of emotions woven into the fabric of life

     Our only hope and source of comfort during these darkest hours is faith. I believe the comfort you receive from God is in direct proportion to your faith. If you are rich in faith, you will have access to an abundant amount of comfort in return. Let’s look at a founding father of faith, the Apostle Paul, and see the strength and confidence that faith in God nurtured in his life.

     Paul turned from a life persecuting Christians to become a champion of the gospel. The more he ministered, the more confidence and faith he seemed to possess. He began to see beyond our mortal boundaries and embraced a life that wasn’t silenced by death. He saw our journey no longer limited by what we could see and touch. The revelation he received, and passed on to us who believe, is a far-reaching. Eternal life overcomes the sting of death. His faith empowered him to even taunt and mock the prospect of death. His words to the Church of Corinth were direct and to the point: “Death- Where is thy sting? Grave- Where is thy victory?” {1 Corinthians 15:55-57)  Faith trumps fear.

Death is a interruption- a momentary pause on an eternal journey.

     Verse after verse in our Bible points to a promise of eternal life to the believer. Paul proclaimed for all to hear, “But by the grace of God I am what I am!  His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain(1 Corinthians 15:10). God has much more in store for us .The God who promises never to “leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) has “begun in you a good work and will complete it” (Philippians  1:6). It certainly doesn’t make sense for God to invest heavenly capital and resources to coax you to spiritual maturity only to suddenly lose that time and investment through the finality of death. Death is a momentary pause on an eternal journey.

     To tie our thoughts together, death is scary because we look upon it as a final destination. Faith and God’s word say otherwise. God’s world is built around eternity. One final thought. Jeremiah prophesied in his first chapter that “Before I formed ye in the belly, I knew thee” (Jeremiah 1:5). God was intimately involved in the beginning of your journey. It was no accident. Another verse that might not seem to have anything in common with Jeremiah is found in John 14, the words of Christ Himself. “In my father’s house there are many mansions….I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you unto myself; that where I am, ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3) It sounds like a far-reaching journey that extends from eternity past to eternity future. And now, the most important point: your lesson for the day!!!

God’s plan for your life takes you from you Mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1) to your Father’s house (John 14)
Bible

                   What an amazing Gospel!

  

Music in a Minute “The Lord’s Prayer” performed by Orville Wright