Showing posts from 2015

Sharing the Story of Your Life

Each one of us has a life story.  Our stories include all of our experiences and all of the people who have been a part of our lives. Certainly, along the pages of our lives, there are people who for better or for worse have had a significant influence on our lives. Like all stories, the pages that make up our lives are not just meant to be written, but to be read by others. The life and art of Christ-following is passed on, down the line, from person to person to person, from generation to generation. Christ-following is centered upon the content of the Bible.  Yet, the application of that content is absolutely learned in the trenches of everyday living.  Someone has talked to you and shared the story of their life and how Jesus is a part of it.  Someone has role modeled the Christ-following life for you. When the apostle Paul said, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others,” (2 Timothy 2


But when the right time came, God sent his son, born of a woman, subject to the Law. - Galatians 4:4 (NLT) Most folks have certain traditions when it comes to Christmas gift opening. Some families open their gifts on Christmas Eve. Some families open their gifts on Christmas morning. Some spread out their gift opening over several days to extend the enjoyment. Some open them according to age. Regardless of when or how you open your Christmas presents, you sense that you are in the “right moment”.   It’s intriguing to me that God’s gift to us, the birth of His son Jesus—when God became human— was just at the right moment. Not a moment too early and not a moment to late. “But when the right time came,” the Bible proclaims.   Gratefully, we have the guarantee of God’s Word that Jesus did indeed come. That Jesus lived among us. That Jesus died for our sins. That Jesus conquered death and rose again. We have the benefit of Christ-followers who have gone before us. They have pas

Shepherds Share

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. - Luke 2:17-20 Having heard the angel’s pronouncement concerning Jesus’ birth, and having heard the heavenly army praising God, the shepherds left their fields and flocks to find Jesus. They wanted to see for themselves. After they had seen Jesus, they didn’t keep the amazing circumstances to themselves. As the Gospel of Luke records, “they spread the word.” Then, they returned to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God.   No further description is provided about these shepherds in the Scriptures regarding how their lives were impacted by what they had heard and seen. But, it’s easy to imagine


One thing is certain; waiting is not part of our nature. In this generation, waiting seems to be unacceptable. Amazon Prime promises packages to be delivered in two days but that’s not fast enough for consumers, so Amazon is developing technology with drones to air-lift a package and drop it off at the customer’s door the same day it’s ordered. Something tells me even that service will exasperate those who can’t wait. One of the most difficult lessons a Christ-follower can learn is to wait. God often delays answers when we pray. If you have been knocking at the door of heaven and have yet to receive a reply there are reasons God is keeping you waiting. Before I suggest those reasons, be encouraged with this passage from God’s Word in Isaiah 30:18; “Therefore the L ord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” This is a profound insight into the heart of God. He is t


Growing up in my family there was an obvious unwritten code that hard work was mandatory. My grandfather and uncle wasted no time indoctrinating my cousin and I into it at an early age. The biblical concept of the adamic covenant found in Genesis 3:19 was quoted often; “by the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made.” Since that was too much to quote at the time it needed to be repeated for emphasis, it was modified to; “man is to work by the sweat of his brow.” Later it was paraphrased into a Grandadism: “Life’s hard then you die.” That phrase was used without exception anytime we would complain about the task at hand. Like the Jewish people our family looked upon work, not as a curse, but as a stewardship from God. Even the apostle took up a trade as a tentmaker and knew of the blessing of work. “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” (1 Thessalonians 3:10) And Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever you d


None of us know what life will be like when we get to heaven. But this you should know, that life today is the training ground for your future in eternity. God is preparing you for life and service in heaven. This explains why in this present age you have trials in your life. God uses trials as a teaching tool in the classroom of Christ-following faith. “These trials will show that your faith is genuine.” (1 Peter 1:7 NLT) Faith that is not tested cannot be trusted. It may not be true faith and at best it’s “little faith” without trials. Faith shows itself worthy when it is under fire from all sides. Faith that is tested triumphs in adversity and brings experience and maturity into your faith life. The value of faith is only realized when your weakness is challenged and God’s strength is the only support you hold to while passing through the furnace of the various trials you face. Faith then is perfected, purified in intensity the more it is exercised with tribulation. This resu


When your life tends to tilt, especially when you are sinking in deep trouble, the imbalance you sense should serve as a reminder that when you begin to slant away from vertical lean in the direction of the everlasting arms of your loving Lord and Savior. The words Moses writes to Israel before his death are found in Deuteronomy 33.   Moses encouraged God’s people to abide in His blessings no matter where they go because they know the true and living God—not a dead idol setting in a temple but the God of heaven who comes to the aid of His people. “The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.” (Deuteronomy 33:27 ) Life might be leaning hard on you right now. Life might be a battle for you right now. Life might be exerting its pressure giving you the inclination to give up. Let me encourage you to go forward in faith and rely on the assistance and support of the One who defeats your enemies and holds you up in the battle—Jesus. You maybe sinking undernea


In the last installment of Worthy Words I looked at the issue of soul mutiny— where the spiritual life backslides away from God.   In this issue let me offer what could be a solution when you find your soul out of fellowship with the Spirit.   If an ember is still smoldering you can always take it and spark it into a flame using the bellows of God’s Word. In Psalm 51, King David offers up a prayer to God to be restored. The chapter’s central theme is implored in verse ten—“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Following through the first twelve verses of this Psalm you find continual cries for restoration that rise to the level of the request for grace when conversion first takes place bringing us into the arms of Jesus. This is the tone of repentance. It needs to be exercised by the heart and erupt out of the mouth through the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit to suspend this present sin and bring soul renewal. When you get your fl


A great heartbreak as a pastor is to witness mutiny. It’s not when folks leave the church. I’m addressing a more ominous desertion—the forsaking of Christ. Mutiny of the soul is when a person walks no more with the Lord. I’m forced to ask myself probing questions concerning such actions of those I’ve witnessed making such exits. Was there ever a walk to begin with? (Even Peter didn’t know Judas was a betrayer). What was the reason to make such a change? What has happened in the past that caused you to believe Jesus was not all-sufficient for your life? If Christ was kindhearted and gracious to you, giving you all the peace your heart could hold what did He do to change your desire? What made you exchange your gold for slag? What wilderness has He ever left you alone in? What is so new an attractive that it trumps the Eternal? Pondering such things leaves me a bit confounded as to why simple faith doesn’t find a resting place in the arms of our Savior. But alas, when Jesus exp


What delights capture your attention? The world offers a wide variety of indulgent options that can draw a believer away from what should be their greatest satisfaction—time spent studying God’s word. To treasure other things above the Word of God leads to trouble. Just check out the lives of Lot in Genesis 13; 18:1-19:38 and Achan in Joshua 6-7, and King Saul in 1 Samuel 15, and then Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and you will see that the idolatry of self against the truth of the Word never wins out. We need a heart that seeks God, like Abraham in Gen 14:18-24, Moses in Hebrews 11:24-27, Mary of Bethany in Mark 14:3-9 and the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:1-11. If our heart is seeking God then our eyes will not lead us to stray from God. We must spend time in the Word and treasure it in our hearts by meditating upon it. “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Psalm 119:15 ESV) Having a teachable spirit will enable us to learn from the Lord. Instead of


I must admit that there are times when my problems turn into troubles.   At first I just shrug my shoulders and keep going. Then, there are the troubles that come one right after the other or all at the same time that’s when my faith becomes maxed-out. “Why, God? Why me?” seems to follow. Our man Moses said just like we might say it, “Lord, why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly ?” (Numbers 11:11) The short answer when the frequency of troubles strains our faith is: that for faith to be faith it must be tested and withstand the testing. Our heavenly Father sends tests to help us strengthen the worthiness of our faith. Wood is consumed by fire but gold becomes pure by its flames. Our faith will be torched if it only trusts God when everything is going well—when the kids and family are fabulous, when friends are friendly, when the body is functioning and when the job is paying better than expected. Real faith will glow when heated by the Lord’s faithfulness—when famil


Here is a truth that transcends your situations—the Lord takes pleasure in you, and rejoices over you. That should jump-start your faintly beating heart. That should be the news of the day to cheer you up. Christ-follower you are God’s delight! When we gaze into the mirror it’s a bit hard to see in ourselves why God should take pleasure in us. What we see is our whining and complaining over the burdens we are facing. We reflect upon our sinful antics and unfaithfulness. Our foolishness, imperfections and sicknesses are all that catch our minds eye.   Well then, instead of lamenting over yourself, lift up your eyes to this good news.   Nowhere in the Bible will you read that God delights in the majesty of purple mountains or twinkling stars or even His holy angles. His delight is in YOU!    You will read, however, that you are a fallen creature enslaved by sin, but saved, exalted, made righteous by His Son and glorified by His grace. Would you have ever thought that the One


What you say and how you say it can be the difference between terror and triumph. Take for example the story of Gideon’s triumph over the Midianites in Judges 7. God commanded Gideon to lead his men to do two things. First, cover up their torch lights with clay pots until they heard the blowing of a ram’s horn that trumpeted the signal to break the concealing pots and letting their light shine. Second, they were to shout by crying out with a loud voice, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” (Judges 7:20) These 300 Israelite soldiers had no swords in their hands but one in their mouth and gained victory by shouting “The sword.” Someone once said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” For the Church and every Christ-follower “The mighty Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit!” (Ephesians 6:18) .  When you, Christ-follower, speak the commands of the Word of God it is like taking up a sword and using it to defeat the enemy (Revelation 19:21) . For the name of the Lord is a terro


God gave Moses an important assignment. Even though disobedience kept him from entering into the Promised Land, God’s final work for his servant Moses was to use his spiritual gifts to encourage his young understudy, Joshua. He had the enormous task and responsibility of leading God’s people in chasing out the giant nations and to possess the Promised Land. “Your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will lead the people into the land. Encourage him, for he will lead Israel as they take possession of it.” Deuteronomy 1:38 Whenever the task you’re facing is God sized. God will send someone to encourage you. He knows that His will for your life requires encouragement along the way. Each day has a deadliness to it that can easily allow you to be discouraged and dismayed. Therefore, God instructs Christ-followers to encourage one another. (Pr. 10:21, Isa. 35:3, Ro. 1:12, 2Co. 13:11, 1Th. 5:11, Tit 2:6, 15) God knows what He is doing by this command to encourage. When that someone comes a


Isaiah spoke these words to the people of Zion a long, long time ago. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, this is the way; walk in it” —Isaiah 30:21. Long before the world could even dream about Global Positioning Systems. I have a GPS it is incorporated into the radio so it fits seamlessly into the dash of my pickup. The first time I used it and heard some female’s voice telling me to get ready to turn right, then left and then telling me I had arrived at my destination, I thought this is way too cool. If my Grandad could have slipped out of heaven and joined me in that truck, he would have said, “God is telling us where to go!” God the Holy Spirit is our spiritual GPS. He is the voice behind us that says, “This is the way, walk in it.”  The Living Bible says it this way…“And if you leave God’s paths and go astray, you will hear a Voice behind you say, No, this is the way; walk here.” It is so easy to leave God’s pa


Last year Dawn and I went to Glenwood Caverns, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The cave, discovered in 1897, is called King’s Row which according to USA Today is one of the top 10 best places to go underground. Because of the depth and complexity of this cavern it required that a spelunking guide lead us into and out of this hollowed-out hole in the ground. The 40 minute tour descending a 150 feet revealed beautiful formations of stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws and cave bacon. Without our spelunking guide directing us where to step and where to look we would have missed most of the glorious features that make this cave unique and beautiful. It would have been foolish to venture forth into that cave without our guide knowing where to take the next step. It’s just as foolish for a Christ-follower to have no need of godly guidance.  Typically we do things that are ill-advised and are led astray by it. Then, when realizing the lack of wisdom our heart begins to grieve over its fo

Trash Day

Wednesday is trash day in our neighborhood.  That means early Wednesday morning; I get busy around the house throwing away about anything that is not nailed to the ground.  I collect trash from each room and separate trash items from recycled items. Then I wheel the trash and recycle carts out to the curb to remove the clutter and junk from our home. Then the trash man dumps all my trash into his truck and drives away with it, never to be seen by me again.  Halleluiah!  Weekly, I get to wipe my hands clean of the rubbish in my life.  Fortunately for us, we also have a spiritual trash day.  But, instead of weekly, Jesus is willing to come daily, hourly or each minute as we ask for forgiveness to remove the trash of sin from our lives.  By His love and grace, he takes away the sin in our lives. He then dumps them at the foot of the cross and removes it from our presence permanently.  As far as “the east is from the west” is how far our sins have been removed from us, so it stat

Our Testimony

When I first arrived at Olive Place I wanted to find some connection in Scripture with the church’s name. It needed to be more than name recognition. It needed to proclaim the church’s distinctiveness and personality. Psalm 52:8 was that verse— “But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God's unfailing love.” In the light of the surge of evil and godlessness in our world this verse needs to define the church today. Olive trees are not the most attractive. It isn’t very tall. Its trunk is short, thick, irregular, twisted, light gray and full of bumps and cracks, especially as it gets older. Its leaves are evergreen with a whitish tint on the bottom-side which protects it from cold in winter and heat in summer. It’s tenacious in growing and producing fruit in almost any condition—on hills, in valleys, rocky or fertile soil they are virtually indestructible (it was, after all, an olive branch that a dove brought to Noah after the flood; G

Pass The Good Old Days

Every one of us has longed for “the good old days.” Those days are defined as a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination. We tend to look back with the notion “if only things could be as they once were, life would be so much better now.” The longing for the days gone by is a part of who you are but the longing you have for the past will not change your present or future. Job agrees with us when he says, “Oh, how I long for the good old days, when God took such very good care of me. He always held a lamp before me and I walked through the dark by its light.” (Job 29:2-3 MSG). Just as it was with Job we too must realize that God permits us to experience difficulties and sorrows, but He also sends victories and joys as well. This is a good reminder that we should try to see life in a balanced way. I agree with the great preacher of the 19 th century, Charles Spurgeon who said “Too many people write their blessings in the sand but engrave their sorrows in marble.” In Job


There is a slogan commonly used when describing a trip to Las Vegas: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  The idea is that when people go to Las Vegas they get license to do things they would never normally do, to act like they would never normally act, and to sin in ways they would never normally sin.  So what if you cheat on your wife, this is Vegas!  So what if you are irresponsible with your money, this is Vegas baby!   The problem is many Christians are living their faith this way.  When you compartmentalize your faith the slogan becomes “What happens at church stays at church” or “What happens away from church, stays away from church.”  Many Christians are living out their faith only on Sundays at church.  And when they don’t feel like being a Christian, they stuff their church selves away until Sunday when they need to be good again.  We are called to be Christians not just some of the time, but all of the time.  We are called to be Christ-like in all of our actio

Display Hope

I came across an interesting story some time back concerning the nation of Australia.   In order for the country to raise its lagging birthrate, the government began paying mothers a “baby bonus” — somewhere around the equivalent of $2,100 U.S. dollars — for giving birth (While here in the U.S. we are killing unborn babies at 3,222 per day or 1.12 million per year and selling off their mutilated body parts for profit). While generally the birth of a child is a reward in itself, I know of some mothers who would love to receive some back pay for long, painful hours of labor! And, I’m not sure that any woman would actually seek to get pregnant just for some extra pocket-change — nine months down the road! It seems to me that living the Christian life is a lot like the Australian “baby bonus”. For many Christ-followers, our life experiences do not reflect stories of ever-increasing glory, successes, blessing and happiness. Just look around you! There is a lot of pain, struggle, disc


“Lord, I promise!” That is a phrase that many a Christ-follower has vowed at some time or the other. We assure the Lord even if everyone else stumbles we will not let him down. It’s not too long after that we end up eating our own words and they taste somewhat bitter. If that has happened to you then you should be able to relate to Peter. He boasted confidently that he would never forsake and deny his Lord only to realize in a pool of tears that his Lord knew him better than he knew himself.   “Suddenly, Jesus' words flashed through Peter's mind… And he broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:72) Have you ever come to tears over your failure to live righteously? Has the sin of your stony heart been broken by the gracious gaze of the Savior’s outstretched arms of forgiveness resulting in gushing forth crocodile tears of remorse? If you would think for just a moment and remember what you vowed you would be, then recalling the distance you put between your oath and your heart with r


More than any other time in recent history secularism is overtaking our society leaving no witness that God is alive and on His throne. The voices are many telling this and the next generation what to do. Some are optimistic saying, “Be brave! This crisis isn’t going to last that long.” Some are pessimists proclaiming, “We’re done for!” Many will hear alarmists and scoffers and walk away shrugging their shoulders saying, “What difference does it make anyway?” There needs to be a clear voice, a true voice, a real voice, a voice crying out in the wilderness of godlessness. The prophet, Joel says it must be the voice of parents telling their children the truth of the Word of the Lord. The result will be that their children and grandchildren will pass Him down for generations to come. Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation. (Joel 1:3) Parents are not getting the job done and th

Scholarship Request

In the middle of July families are on vacation relaxing and taking it easy because it’s summertime. But, in just six weeks a new school year begins. Students will resume their learning in the ABC’s of education. The quest for continued and higher education is important for every child to gain the basic skills to navigate through the world they will lead and live in. It is also important for every child of God to be instructed in the alphabet of truth. As a Christ-follower begins the transformation to develop into the masterpiece God has planned for them it becomes a bit overwhelming to walk in the way of the Lord. We may know some things but quickly realize the vastness of our ignorance in His path, His way, and His truth. Often are the times we discover our walk needs improvement and we ask the Lord to still lead us onward with his guiding and helping hand. Our efforts to go it alone have only brought despair and discouragements which turn us back to Him in prayer craving to be f


The sultry days of July are upon us. The summer months put us on notice that the sun is out the heat is up and the rain is for the most part non-existent. This has been the status for the past five years in north Texas as we have experienced an “exceptional drought.”   But the recent heavy rains of April and May have help us to emerge from the worst of its effects filling our lakes to overflowing and greening up the vegetation that is usually brown and brittle by this time of year. Times of drought make us appreciate the benefits of needed rain — summer or winter. In these days mankind is experiencing an exceptional drought of self-sacrifice. It is hard to find lives flowing with streams of living water giving value, virtue, and morality to the society by the means of truth. Instead there are lives of self-fulfillment becoming boundless reservoirs of progressive morality simply guided by their inward goodness. Self has become autonomous in determining society’s destiny. It won’


Have you ever journeyed off the map? Have you ever found yourself in a place where you had no control over your situation? This week in Vacation Bible School Olive Place kids learned that whenever you’re off the map and “you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: ‘This is the way. Walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21 Daniel was taken off of his map and made a slave by the conquering Babylonians. He didn’t cry or whine to God about where he was. He simply knew that his guide was God and he trusted his guide and followed his guide with every step he took. Even when it was difficult and the kings he served put pressure on him to give up Daniel stayed on track by trusting and praying to God every day for direction and wisdom. Everywhere Daniel turned he journeyed in the way of the Lord. He walked in the way every day. When you’ve lost your way you should take a moment and call out to your Guide—His name is Jesus. He has promised that He knows the way.


Have you ever had the feeling that you were the only one in the group (friends, co-workers, family) that spoke out for what was right? This group that you’re in has turned on its heels against you and seeks to speak what is true based on public correctness. You on the other hand are the odd-man-out and your voice is a mere squeak compared to the loud noise of the populist choir. Where have all the righteous gone? Why are the words of the righteous disappearing? Rest easy you are not the first to experience such a moment. Elijah (1 Kings 18:22) thought he was the only faithful prophet left and Isaiah (Isaiah 57:1) and Micah (Micah 7:1-7) voiced their concerns over the absence of righteous leaders. The apostle Paul moaned over having to go-it alone (2 Timothy 1:15) . David knew he was living in a society controlled by deception. It wasn’t that a small section was spinning the truth and promoting propaganda it was the characteristic of his entire generation. David prays, “Help, O


Today’s cruise ships are modern marvels. I read where the Royal Caribbean cruise line recently launched “Oasis of the Seas”, at present it is the largest cruise ship afloat. It can carry some 6,300 passengers. At 1,181 feet long, it is only 68 feet shorter than the Empire State Building. As large as a ship like this can be, it is still vulnerable to the natural conditions of wind, weather and seas. Yet, all modern cruise ships have “stabilizers” onboard, which counteract the motion of the ship by changing the angles of underwater fins attached to the hull – making people who are prone to seasickness much more comfortable. Storms come to every person’s life. When a loved one gets sick it seems like the rain of pain will never end. When a relationship becomes full of troubles it’s as if gale force winds blow to rip it apart. The stormy seas of anger toss and turn when something or someone you were counting on fails to follow through. No one escapes life’s storms. When the storm ra


As a Christ-follower you discover early on in your journey that your heart wages war with what you use to be and what you are. It is a relentless fight betwixt to natures—the old and the new. Your old nature is seasoned and wily. It will use its veteran assault weapons of sex, lust, envy, wild parties, anger, selfishness, and jealousy at every opportunity to lay siege to your newfound grace. Your new nature however, is vigilant and ever ready to be the resistance force to take down and defeat this anti-grace coalition. This sworn enemy against grace will be met with tactile sorties of faith, hope, love, and prayer to bring this evil in your life to its knees in surrender. But be warned these two opposing natures will always clash as long as you live in this world. The apostle Paul earnestly lays it out for us concerning this two nature wrestling match. “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are t


I’ve had sinus infections before but this one was the worst ever. I started on a Friday with the usual signs of a sinus issue so I sprang into gear with the usual measures to lessen its impact—which in the past proved successful. However, when Monday rolled around it was overcoming all of my efforts to defeat its countermeasures. That night was unlike any I have experienced. No sleep lots of hacking up awful yellow stuff then uncontrollable breathing and vomiting this stuff was even coming out of my eyes! Tuesday morning I couldn’t take it any more so my wife drove me to the doctor—where I should have gone in the first place. Why do we not do what we know we should do in the first place? Why are we not drawn to seek out the only help for our condition? It wasn’t until Monday night after I tried everything while tossing about in such pain and misery did I cry out, “Lord help me!” In a similar way we are slow to respond to the Lord’s gentle urges. Instead of running to him we run

Start to Finish

Often we liken the habits of man to the habits of God. If one perceived themselves as fun-loving they would conclude God as being fun-loving. If one saw themselves as having difficulty they would fashion an idea that God has difficulty. Projecting our humanity upon His divinity could lead one to a misconception about how God functions and thus find themselves living with a faith that is fragile, futile, and fickle. This fallacy becomes apparent when in our humanness we fail to finish tasks of faith that we start. We begin with confident resolve affirming that nothing can shake us. Our love is heartfelt and steady. Yet, we fail to remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of this world that keep calling our name and once again at the point of being allured by its call we ignore the reality of our own evil hearts that can never conquer sin. King David—like us, displayed a heart for God then failing to finish what he started because of a sinful heart —expressed a divine confide