Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Intentions Fail

Good Intentions Fail
Scripture Reading: Exodus 24:1-18
So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do.” (Ex. 24:3 NKJ)
The children of Israel had the best of intentions with their promise of obedience, but when Moses was up in the mountain receiving the instructions for the building of the tabernacle, the people’s good intentions gave way to the worship of a golden calf. They said to Aaron, “Come make us gods that shall go before us, for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Ex. 32:1 NKJ)  Someone has said, “Hell is paved with good intentions.”
     We are no different than the people of Israel. We make all kinds of promises beginning on New Year’s Eve only to break them by February 1st. We began our diet and exercise program with great enthusiasm; the cigarettes were tossed away, the vulgar language cast aside, the meditations faithfully kept, and daily prayers uttered. Man, we were on a roll! Then one by one, they all disappeared. What happened? Why couldn’t we maintain the momentum? What caused the procrastination? Why did we fail?
     I believe our failure is due to the fact that even though we have good intentions, we still possess the old sinful nature. We mean to follow through with our promises to God and ourselves, but something always interferes. That something is our sinful flesh. After praying to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus confronted Peter, James, and John with a startling truth. He came and found them asleep and said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:40 NKJ). The problem is that while the heart has been redeemed, the flesh has not. A war is going on with us between the spirit and the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)o
     That’s the bad news. The good news is that God knows all about our weaknesses. The Bible says, “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJ). The worst case scenario is that we can’t begin to fix ourselves. No amount of righteous works can solve our problems. There is no self-solution. Self cannot redeem itself. How then are we going to solve our dilemma? How can we make the changes necessary to get on the right side of God?  
     If you want to turn failure into victory, then release control of your out-of-control life into the outstretched hands of Jesus. Give up your self-efforts and allow Christ to change you from the inside out. Placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ will initialize the change.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to cast aside my self-effort, and give control of my life over to you.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

God's Smiling on You

God’s Smiling on You
Scripture Reading: Numbers 6:22-27
“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” (Nu 6:24-26 NLT)
In order to develop a good self-esteem children need repeated affirmation from parents, teachers, friends, and neighbors. A lack of validation can lead to self-doubt and feelings of inferiority and insecurity. A continual barrage of negative comments can cause them to lose their spiritual moorings and turn them away from worshipping God.
     My wife and I raised four boys and a girl and were ill-prepared for parenthood. The early years were difficult ones. Low wages (pastor’s salary), poor living conditions (three room house), lack of time to spend with the family (too busy meeting needs of church members), and feelings of inadequacy led to dysfunction within the family. Then, during their teen years everything seemed to fall apart. I didn’t have a clue how to deal with the problems that were present with the sixties generation. The drug culture, anti-government sentiments, rebellion to authority, and refusal to abide by our standards left me disillusioned and bewildered. If it were not for the grace of God, I doubt if we would have made it through those years. We took refuge in the fact that we had faith that God was smiling down on us.  What I learned from those experiences was that God always takes the initiative. He was faithful to us even if we weren’t faithful to him.
     Moses faced similar difficulties as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness. He was faced with constant complaints, anti-Moses protests, rebellion, and mutiny. On one occasion the people were ready to stone him. Moses’ faith was tested to the limit, just like mine was, and he responded in a similar manner by crying out to God for help. How did God respond? He answered his prayers by directing him to water to answer their complaint, “we are dying of thirst.” He sent them “manna” when they were demanding food. When they complained that they were tired of the manna, he sent them meat in the form of quail. Through all the complaints and threats on Moses’ leadership God continued to smile down on them.
     In case you are thinking, that’s Old Testament stuff, let me remind you that God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” as recorded in Hebrews 13:5. God’s heart has never changed and he is still smiling on his people today.
     Think about it! Right where you are right—whether at your work place, in your car driving home or walking through the super-market— God is smiling on you? What should be your response? Reflect upon his love and care and then smile back.

Prayer: Dear Lord, may my smile be as loving as the one I receive from you. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Getting Serious with God

Getting Serious with God
Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 7:1-17
Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “if you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtareth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then he will rescue you from the Philistines. (1 Sam. 7:3 NLT)
How many of us at one time or another has said, “Tomorrow I am going to _________.” You can fill in the blank with such statements as: lose weight, begin a daily exercise program, fix that ___, spend more time with the Lord, go over and visit my friend in the nursing home, get out of debt, talk to my neighbor about Christ, or any number of other good intention promises.
     Tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and no steps are taken to fulfill any of the promises we made to ourselves and the Lord. This type of behavior begs the questions: “Are we really serious about making these changes or keeping our promises?”
     Samuel confronted the Israelites with the same questions, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtareth.” For twenty years the people of Israel had abandoned God, and “during that time, all Israel mourned because it seemed that the Lord had abandoned them” (7:2b).They turned to other gods and refused to follow God’s laws. Samuel didn’t waste words—he cut right to the core of their dilemma. If you want to receive help from the Lord, then, will God rescue you from the Philistines.
     There was a time in my Christian walk when I thought that I could handle everything in my own strength. I took over as pilot and wouldn’t let go of the wheel. Everything seemed to go smooth for a spell, but then everything began to unravel. I didn’t know how to deal with the drug culture of that day. Nothing in my past life prepared me for the discovery that several of my children were participating in drugs. How do I deal with this issue? What do I say to turn them away from the influences around them? I cried out to the Lord, but no answers came. I felt all alone and unable to deal with the magnitude of the problems. It seemed as if the Lord was saying, “You wanted to go it alone without me, and here are the results.” For the first time in my life I came to realize that my control was not working, and I needed to ask forgiveness, and give control of my life over to the Lord.
     What would it mean for you to get serious about your relationship with God? It might mean removing an idol, or keeping some of the promises you’ve made to the Lord, It might mean changing an attitude, or being willing to give over control of your life to the Lord.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I give complete control of my life over to you. You be the pilot.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Getting our Attention

Getting Our Attention
Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-12
When the Lord saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” God told him. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” (Ex 3:4-5 NLT)
Moses was sauntering along with his flock of sheep when he saw a strange sight. A bush was engulfed in flames. Not just any ordinary flames, but a column of flame shooting up like a sword. As he moved closer, Moses said to himself, “Amazing! The bush is burning but it’s not burning up. How can you have fire without smoke or ashes?” Talk about getting your attention! This phenomenal sight certainly caught Moses’ attention. Suddenly, he heard a voice calling him out of the flames, “Moses! Moses!” “Who could that be and how did he know my name?,” Moses thought. He was ordered to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Finally, the voice said, “I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” What a wake-up call! No wonder the voice knew his name, it was the Holy God of his ancestors who was talking to him.
     What would it take for God to get your attention? Would an unexplainable event like what Moses experienced do it? Would it take a miracle? It may not be as spectacular as a burning bush, but just as effective. God uses those actions and circumstances that he knows will cause us to stop and listen. Sometimes he may use drastic health issues, catastrophic storms of nature, business losses, family conflicts, wars and rumors of wars, and even death. God is not limited to a specific means, but in his sovereignty fits the attention getting devices to our specific needs. In all cases he has a specific purpose in mind and a message for us.
     God used a book and a pamphlet to get my attention. The book was entitled “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat,” by John Ortberg, and the pamphlet was from Wycliffe Associates called “Involved.”  The book taught my wife and I how to find God’s will, face our fears, manage failure, and risk our faith. It was a challenge for us to get out of our comfort zone. God used the pamphlet to point us to Peru as a place of service.
     This is exactly what happened to Moses. He was safely seated in the boat watching a flock of sheep when God called to him from a burning bush. What did God want? He wanted Moses to get out of the boat and follow him. It was time for Moses to get out of his comfort zone, and become the deliverer of the enslaved people of God in Egypt.
     Whatever means God uses to get your attention—turn aside, like Moses, and listen for his still small voice.

Prayer: Dear Lord, how thankful I am that you called my wife and I as a team to serve you.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fear vs Faith

Fear versus Faith
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14-1-31
“As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic, and they cried out to the Lord for help.” (Exodus 14:10 NLT)
When my boys were young we loved to go camping at Big Spring State Park in Missouri. In the evening we sat around our campfire watching the flickering flames and listened to the chirping of crickets, the hooting of owls, and the yapping of coyotes. Sounds at night always seem closer than they really are, and noises in the forest are especially scary. Ghostlike shadows make the hair on the back of one’s neck rise and feelings of fear emerge. Darkness has a way of doing this to a person.
     That’s what happened to Israel when they left Egypt for the Promised Land. God led the people by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea. Pharaoh allowed them to go, but then God changed Pharaoh’s mind (Ex. 14:4 NASB). The people stood facing the Red Sea and looked back and saw the Egyptian army pursuing them. They were literally trapped. Great fear gripped their hearts. What were they to do? Why did God allow this to happen? The answer is given in Ex. 14:4. “I have planned this so I will receive glory at the expense of Pharaoh and his armies. After this, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” (NLT)
     The purpose of God’s glory is to show that God is God. Our trials and tribulations are intended to bring God glory. Each difficulty we face gives us an opportunity to show the watching world that God is greater than any adversity we encounter.
     On several occasions Peter allowed emotional fear to overwhelm his faith; once when he saw Jesus walking on the water (Mt 14:30), and again while standing by the courtyard fire at the trial of Jesus (Mt. 26:74-75). It is important to note that Jesus never gave up on Peter. When Jesus arose from the grave following his death and burial, he immediately sought out Peter and restored him back into fellowship.  
     Fear is one of the tactics that Satan uses to keep us in bondage. Living in constant fear stymies our spiritual growth, and leaves us vulnerable to other destructive attacks.
How do we live free of fear?  First, we need to recognize that God is sovereign and in control of every situation.  Second, He reveals himself to us in ways we least expect. Third, he gives us a great promise, “…fear not for I am with you. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. (Heb. 13:5).  

Prayer: Dear Lord, Help me to remember that you are greater than any fear. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Disruptive Moments

Disruptive Moments
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
“Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”                         (2 Cor. 12:10 NLT)
Have you ever experienced a disruptive moment?
     Disruptive moments are those times when unwelcome events occur in our lives that usually involve pain, inconvenience, failure, set-backs, or humiliation. These difficulties pop up unexpectedly and find us totally unprepared. I would liken them to pot holes or bumps in the road of life. Sometimes they are short in duration while at other times they linger endlessly.
     I experienced a disruptive moment while on a mission trip to Peru in 2008. I was bending over to get into a tiny taxi and bumped my left ear on the door frame smashing my hearing aid. To some this may seem like a small bump, but to me it was devastating. Not only did I ruin a $2,000 hearing aid, but now I could only hear out of one side of my head. Would I be able to teach the children and hear their responses? Other bumps in the road appeared when each of our team members got a twenty-four hour sickness with flu like symptoms. How were we going to handle these disruptive moments? Those of us that were not sick met together for prayer. We also searched the Scripture and decided to claim the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We determined to trust the Lord in spite of the bumps in the road.
     The Apostle Paul experienced a lot of disruptive moments in his life. He was beaten and left for dead, shipwrecked on his way to Rome, bitten by a poisonous viper and survived, put in chains and cast into prison, suffered a thorn in the flesh, endured hunger and hardships, and numerous other failures, disappointments, humiliations, and set-backs. How did he manage to keep going?
     He did the same thing that we did when we were hit by disruptive moments. He prayed and trusted the promises of God, especially the promise the Lord gave him in 2 Corinthians 12:9;
      “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
     Why does God allow us to experience these disruptive moments? What could be his purpose? I can think of at least two reasons: (1) to cause us to turn to him in total dependence and faith, (2) to allow us to experience the power of God in the midst of our weakness. When bumps in the road appear in your life allow God’s grace to overshadow you and bring you peace.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know disruptive moments will come, help me to fully trust in you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dad Can Fix It

Dad Can Fix It
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:35-43
Then Jesus asked the man, “What do you want me to do?” “Lord,” he pleaded, “I want to see!” And Jesus said, “All right you can see! Your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” (Lk 18:41-42 NLT)
When I was young I loved to make things: slingshots, pea shooters, bows and arrows, and scooters. One day, my younger brother, Sterling, was playing with my scooter. I found him sitting on the sidewalk with tears running down his cheeks. “What the matter?” I asked. “I broke your scooter,” he replied. I could see that he was scared because I had warned him not to mess with it. After he stopped crying I said, “Don’t worry, Dad can fix it!” I wasn’t worried because I knew that my father could fix anything.
     The same statement could be made about our heavenly Father. God’s son, Jesus Christ was a great fixer upper. He fixed a woman who had a threatening issue of blood disease. One touch of his garment and she was healed. He fixed the loaves and fishes through prayer and over five thousand people ate until they were filled. He fixed his friend Lazarus when he raised him from the dead.
     I remember the first time that I took my grandson fishing. He didn’t know how to bait the hook or cast the line into the water. I gave him a few lessons and after a little practice he managed to make a pretty good cast. I walked off a few yards to sit down and watch. It wasn’t long before I heard his pleading little voice saying, “Grandpa, my line is all tangled up, can you fix it?” Needless to say, I spent a lot of time untangling lines that day.
     Our heavenly father is an expert at fixing the messes that we make of our lives. There is nothing that is impossible for God. When we believe in God and trust him to fix it, he will not let us down. Jesus is our supernatural fixer-upper. He voluntarily went to the cross and fixed our sin problem by giving his life for us. When we occasionally sin, we can go to the Lord in prayer and confession and say to Him, “Father, I sinned, can you fix it?”
     Regardless of where our troubles come in this life, whether from a broken relationship, a failed assignment, or a discouraging report from a doctor, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that our Father in heaven can fix it.
     After all, he’s in the “fix it business”.

Prayer: Dear Lord, you are the one that is able to fix all my problems. Help me to remember to take them to you by faith.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 6:12-19
“Then it  happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of her window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” (2 Sam. 6:16 NASB)
The people in Yaounde, Cameroon celebrate the Lord with gusto. When I first attended one of their worship services I was amazed at the sheer joy they showed in their singing. It seemed impossible for them to stand perfectly still and sing. They clapped, shouted, twirled around, and swayed to the music. It was not done in a disorderly manner, nor was it disrespectful to the Lord. It reminded me of David’s experience when the ark of the Lord was brought back to Jerusalem. The Cameroonians did not show any inhibitions or negative emotions. To them celebrate really means celebrate. We see the same kind of enthusiasm in many of our African American churches today.
     For other people, praise and worship are internal processes with little or no show of emotion. Songs are sung while standing or sitting without any body movement. They clap to certain songs and some will sing with uplifted hands, but not everyone partakes in the same manner. They are just as joyful, but worship in a silent manner. That may not be the way it is in all Caucasian churches, but it is what I have experienced in the churches I’ve attended over the past fifty years.
     King David definitely fell into the first group. He showed his joy and praise by leaping and dancing before the Lord. He wasn’t deterred by the criticism of others. All that mattered to him was raising his voice and lifting up his heart to God. David didn’t mind making a fool of himself as long as God was being glorified. Michal didn’t like what she saw and held him in contempt. God was pleased and accepted David’s actions, but punished Michal by withholding children from her for the rest of her life. She paid a bitter price for her hatred and despite.
     I thoroughly enjoyed worshipping with the African people in Cameroon. It is impossible to stand like a statue when all around you people are clapping and singing so joyfully to the Lord. You could see in their faces and body movements how much they loved the Lord and desired to celebrate him.
     What kind of worshiper are you? Do you stand like a statue and sing with your lips barely moving, or do you vocalize with great joy and enthusiasm? It is not my place to pass judgment on what your method of worship might be, but I do believe that God wants us to celebrate and glorify him in our worship. If our worship does not have the Lord as the sole object of affection and devotion, then it is not really worship.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to worship you with joy knowing that you are worthy of my praise. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Carried on Eagle's Wings

Carried on Eagle’s Wings
Scripture Reading: Exodus 19:1-6
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I brought you to myself and carried you on eagle’s wings.” (Exodus 19:4 NLT)
People worldwide are seeking assurance and security in the marketplace, at home, at work, and even in the church. Businesses are downsizing or closing up shop, friends and families are divided, and churches are ill-equipped or unwilling to meet their needs. People everywhere are crying out for help, but none is to be found.
     Moses faced challenges of epic proportions in his leadership role as Israel’s deliverer. The people were despondent and teetered on the brink of mutiny. I’m sure Moses thought to himself on more than one occasion “how can I hold this multitude together. They are like a flock of frightened sheep scattering in all directions.” Lack of security will do that to a person. It is easy to lose ones sense of direction. What was Moses to do?
     At that precise moment, God stepped in and spoke to Moses and the people. He reminded them (we’re so prone to forget) that it was by His almighty power that they were delivered from slavery in Egypt. I love the phrase where God said, “I brought you to myself and carried you on eagles’ wings.” Isn’t that great?
     If you are a believer, it is because God sought you out and chose you to be one of his children. Paul clearly tells us in Romans 3:11-12, “No one is seeking God, all have gone wrong. No one does good, not even one.” (NLT) Those words certainly applied to Israel.
     I remember a time when I was in need of God’s eagle wings. I was fishing high in the mountains of Colorado miles away from any medical facility. I felt tightness in the upper chest area. I was scared and frightened. No one was there to help me. I thought for sure that I was going to have a heart attack and die. Due to the altitude I could only take a couple steps before stopping to catch my breath. I called out to God for help. Slowly, I made my way back to the car where my wife was waiting for me. We ended our vacation and drove back to Missouri. Three days after arriving home I was in the operating room of Boone Hospital in Columbia, Missouri having quadruple bypass surgery. I definitely believe that I was carried home on God’s eagle wings.
     It is not by accident that God chose the eagle as his symbol of deliverance, and it is not surprising that seventeen countries have chosen the eagle as their coat of arms symbol. I doubt if I would be here today, if it were not for the protection of God’s eagle’s wings.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I can’t thank and praise you enough for providing eagle’s wings for me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-19
“The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 NLT)
The world places no value on broken things. People who are broken are often discarded by our society like shards of glass. We live in a culture that idolizes youth, beauty, outward appearances, and self-reliance. If a fetus in the womb has a defect—abort it. When people get old and unable to care for themselves we hide them in forgotten old folk’s homes. It’s like the old adage: “out of sight is out of mind.”
     What is brokenness? Tony Evans in his book “Free at Last” says, “Brokenness is the work of God by which he strips us of our pride and self-sufficiency so that the beauty of the life of Christ will shine through.” (p. 170, para. 1)
     Mr. Evans goes on to say, “true brokenness is God striking a blow to the flesh in such a graphic way that we have no strength left to fix ourselves” (p. 170, par. 4). This is a great definition because our unredeemed self-life (flesh) is never able to please God. The flesh is at war with the Spirit, and no common meeting ground exists between the two. That’s why the Apostle Paul said to the Galatians, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh, for the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for they are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:16-17 NASB)
     Once we come to realize that God alone is all we need for daily living, we are on our way to true brokenness. Self-sufficiency is so engrained in our self-life that even after salvation it clings to us and prevents the life of Christ from shining through.
     A few years ago I searched and found my sister (who I hadn’t seen for over twenty-five years) in a nursing home in Panama City, Florida. She is now ninety-one years old. At first, neither one of us recognized each other. I was saddened to see her sitting in a wheel chair and all alone. I asked her, “Do your children come to see you?” She answered, “No, they never come around.” How terrible to be broken and cast aside!
     Can God see the beauty of brokenness in your life? Are you daily crucifying the flesh and walking in the Spirit? What are some ways you can reach out to the broken-hearted? Do you know of someone who could benefit from an encouraging word?

Prayer: Dear Lord, There are over a hundred seniors living around me in this over fifty-five mobile home community. Help me to be a friend and reach out to them with encouraging words.