Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Crucible, Washington, and WalMart

Do you ever wonder if you're making progress?

How will you ever know if your faith is solid?

What 'measuring stick' will you use to determine whether or not you are being 'sanctified'--ie, made more holy?

"It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God... For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

So, how will we know?

Sometimes, it's how we act in the pressure we act when the heat is on.

     That is when we really know.

I wonder if God doesn't look at our nation like that.

How will we--as a people--react when the pressure is on.

Back in the 20s and 30s, during the Great Depression, how did people react?

I'm sure there were negative examples, but in general, the people pulled together. They helped each other. They traded and bartered the gifts, talents and goods they did have, rather than stealing the goods they did not have.

I wonder if God is going to let us experience that kind of test again. 
If He does, how do you think we will react--as a culture?

The past week, we've seen some glimpses of that.

In Washington, politicians are busy jockeying for political position and trying to score political points, incurring ever-increasing debt and making the government bigger and more powerful over us, all the while telling us that they are representing our best interests, and trying to get us to turn against our friends and neighbors, who see things differently.

At the same time, we've seen from a completely different perspective that we, the 'common people' may fail the test too--if a real test comes along.

This past weekend there was a computer glitch in the EBT system in several states. Many people found that they could not use theirr 'foodstamp' cards to buy groceries and, understandably, this made them quite anxious.

Others--for example, in Lousiana, found out the WalMart stores were letting them use theirr cards, even though the 'limit' per card was not registering.

In other words, WalMart was letting them buy as much as they wanted on their cards, even though the store, the cashier, and the customer all knew it was WAY over what they were authorized to do. In fact, according to procedure in that case, the limit is supposed to be $50. 

Once news started to spread, customers with EBT cards took to social media to spread the word. Suddenly, the stores filled with hundreds of people who emptied the shelves! Some ran up bills of more than $700 in groceries. Some customers took 10 full shopping carts out!

Why? WalMart spokesmen said that they made the decision to alleviate any stress on the EBT customers, and the situation got away from them. They called the police to manage crowd control (interestingly, it was NOT to stop the behavior). 

When the glitch was fixed, customers simply walked out, abandoning their carts full of groceries to thaw and rot. 

This leads me to ask about our culture. Is there any hope left for us?

If, when the crucible of trial is applied, we fail so quickly, what will happen when that 'glitch' lasts for a week...or a month?

“My people bend their tongues like bows
    to shoot out lies.
They refuse to stand up for the truth.
    They only go from bad to worse.
They do not know me,”
    says the Lord.
 “Beware of your neighbor!
    Don’t even trust your brother!
For brother takes advantage of brother,
    and friend slanders friend.
 They all fool and defraud ea other;
    no one tells the truth.
With practiced tongues they tell lies;
    they wear themselves out with all their sinning.
 They pile lie upon lie
    and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,”
    says the Lord.
 Therefore, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“See, I will melt them down in a crucible
    and test them like metal.
What else can I do with my people?

They speak friendly words to their neighbors
    while scheming in their heart to kill them.
 Should I not punish them for this?” says the Lord.
    “Should I not avenge myself against such a nation?” (Jeremiah 9:3-9)

If God is going to salvage us, as a people--as a nation, He may just send the 'crucible' upon us. If that happens, how will we react?

As a Christ-Follower, how will YOU react?

IF, as we've been talking about in our Sunday services, your "Identity" is as a Citizen of Heaven...and IF you are dedicating yourself to "Living a life worthy of your calling", and IF you know that your strength is from the Lord, THEN you will shine like a star in the sky.

Not sure what you will do?

Do some serious business with the Lord this week and ask Him to show you who you are--at your core. Then allow Him to 'sanctify' you so that you will pass the test.

The crucible can burn you, or it can purify's up you!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pleasing Your (Heavenly) Father

Who do you live to please?

There are many people in our lives that want us to live to please them--our parents, our friends-- but they may not be at the top of our lists.

There are other people in our lives that we should live to please--our spouse, our boss, etc.

Some would say you should only live to please yourself.

     Look our for number one, grab the gusto, go for it...that's the emphasis of      our culture.

So what's your answer? Who do YOU live to please?

The answer is pretty important.

The way you answer that is going to determine a lot--how much joy you have in life, how much peace you experience, how much contentment...'s also going to go a long way toward determining your behavior. 

     Will you do whatever your boss says, no matter how unethical it might be,           in order to please him?
     Will you compromise your morals and beliefs in order to please your                     friends and go along with them?
     Will you sabotage your own health and sense of well-being in order to go             placate your spouse?
     Will you use other people in order to please yourself?

The truth is that we all live to please someone, whether we realize it or not!

     How about this idea: Let's live to please GOD!

Seriously, the Word says that we should:

"Present your bodies to God--a living and holy sacrifice, the kind He will find acceptable." (Romans 12:1)

The Apostle Paul told his young apprentice, Timothy, that he should: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

Paul also wrote the the Corinthians that they should remember: "Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 

Living to please God, rather than others enables us to follow Him more boldly. 

As Peter said when threatened by the religious leaders: “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

It's not only our bodies and our actions, but our hearts and minds.

As Jesus said, "You must Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind; this is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: You must love your neighbor as your self." (Matthew 22:37-39)

Living to please God frees you up from the tyranny of living to please others and the trap of living to please yourself.

Next time you're struggling with a decision, feeling torn about something you're being encouraged to do, or struggling to balance priorities, STOP!

Prayerfully ask this question: "What would please GOD in this situation?"

     Then do it.

Living to please God will be hard at times, but it will result in freedom, consistency, peace and joy...and most importantly, it will result in the Glory of God!

Who are You living to please today?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Watch Your Focus!

"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; I have overcome this world!" (John 16:33)

There are a LOT of trials in this life!

Finances, relational troubles, work challenges, traffic jams, appliance problems, car trouble...

Add to that the stresses of the geo-political climate, the economy, and so on, and there is no shortage of reasons to lose focus. No shortage of reasons to have bad attitudes and crabby dispositions. That is the 'normal' response in our world.

...but that is NOT what the Lord would want us to do!

Rather, He wants to enable us to rise above those stresses and challenges.

The good news: He doesn't expect us to do it on our own.

Rather, the Holy Spirit exists, among other reasons, to enable us to live out His calling. He enables us to have 'strength beyond belief'! He is the one who enables us to be different from the rest.

He enables us to produce the "Fruit of the Spirit" in our lives, even in a bad situation.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control..." (Galatians 5:23-24)

To be loving, even to the unlovable.
To have joy, even in the midst of stress.
To have peace in spite of anxiety-producing situations.
To have patience, even when 'that person' has put you to the test.

It is our role to learn to lean on Him, to put our focus on Him--His strength, His glory, and His plan.

...and as we do so, He give us victory!
Not necessarily a 'deliverance' from trouble, but victory over it!

Watch your Focus!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Enjoy Every Day!

Today, my family stepped into another school year.

For Lori, that meant another class of wonderful young fives, who will challenge her, tax her, love her and whom she will love with all her heart.

For Chris, it means a VERY busy class-load as he tries to finish at Grace this year.

Bekah continues her time @ Disney, hoping to be hired on there after her College Program is done.

For Tim, it's another semester at KVCC as he tries to narrow his field of study to exactly what he was 'designed' to do.

For Abby, it's her Senior Year! A lot of 'last times' coming up in this wonderful experience.

Rachel is returning to High School as a sophomore--no longer the new girl/freshman who was intimidated and shy, I'm sure she's going to enjoy this year.

Emily is in her 8th grade year--her Last Year @ Paramount (and our last child there).

LOTS of challenges ahead...LOTS of good, exciting times.

For me, I love the Autumn season in Michigan, and  I look forward to the schedule and the routine.

Yet...there's a bittersweet-ness to the beginning of another school year.

Why is that? Why would I sit here a little melancholy on a day that is this exciting?

I'm sure part of it is because the summer's over, and we didn't get away as much as we would have liked, but I think it's more. I think it's because this reminds me again how quickly life is moving on, and how much is changing.

Chris will graduate this year, and will be seeking employment. Only the Lord knows where that will lead him.
Bekah will stay in Florida, enroll in school, and quite probably will not be back.
Tim is planning on moving out with a friend within the month.
Abby will graduate this year and begin moving on with her life.
Rachel will be another year closer to doing the same, and
Emily will graduate from Paramount and be a High School student!

Even for our family, time is marching onward.

So what should we do--try to slow things down? Try to keep the kids @ home?

No! God has wired them to impact this world in their own way, and we are excited to see where the Lord leads!

Rather, we simply need to enjoy every minute... To LOVE each other in spoken and demonstrated ways every day... To savor the memories and experiences we have together... To thank the Lord and worship Him for who He is and all He's done.

These are the things that give LIFE to our days.

So, let's not simply let the time go by, rather let LOVE give Meaning to this Time!

I keep coming back to Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom".

Teach us to recognize that our days are limited...we don't know how many we have. So, let's use the Lord's wisdom to live them out for His glory--prioritizing Him 1st, then family, then others.

I intend to squeeze every last drop out of the coming year, and to enjoy it all.

I hope You can do that too!

May God bless you and your family!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I heard a comedian recently ask a great and funny question: "Why aren't there any mirrors in the self-checkout?" (Michael Jr.)

Think about it...he said it in his 'Random Thoughts' performance to be funny (and he Is--check him out online).

But the Word of God says that we should perform 'self-checkouts' as well. Not so that we can make sure we look 'just right' or that our hair isn't messed up, but so that we can check ourselves out based on God's Word.

Continuing to work through Romans, we read these familiar words:

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." (Romans 12:3-6)

We should 'check ourselves out' with "sober judgement", according to our faith.

That means that we have to take an honest look at ourselves, from God's perspective.

That calls for honesty, integrity, and courage...the courage to admit our faults, to admit our compromises, to admit our failures. 

It also means that we acknowledge that God has been active within us, and He has given us gifts and talents to be used for His glory. 

We are a part of His 'Body'...but if we're ever going to live up to what He wants for us and from us, we need to be willing to evaluate ourselves from His Word's perspective.

Are we becoming more like Christ?

   Are we showing love more, and grace?
   Are we willing to live with eternity in mind, and to pay whatever temporary          costs there are? 
   Are we willingly being "transformed" by the renewing of our minds into the          person He wants us to be?


Are we resisting His work within us?
Are we defining ourselves more by this world's standards than by His?
Are we adopting here-and-now values and goals, which won't last?

We need to view ourselves honestly...with "sober judgment".

Here's the great news: 

If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, if you've acknowledged Him as Savior and Lord in your life, then your 'New Beginning' is one honest evaluation and one repentant prayer away!

There is always a new beginning waiting for you--as you take an honest look at yourself, spiritually, and commit yourself to following Him anew.


That's what a lot of KCCers will be doing this Sunday, as they dedicate themselves (as parents) and their children to the Lord, and as others move forward in baptism.

They've said, in essence, 'I've taken an honest look at myself--with "sober judgement" and I realize that I've been holding out on God, and I want to move forward with Him. I want the future to be more according to His Word than the past was. I want to follow Him completely."

This will be a GREAT day, and could very well be life-changing for these KCCers, as they follow through consistently.

What about you?

Have you followed Jesus' command to be baptized, after you've declared your faith in Jesus? 

Have you taken stock of where you're at in your faith--with "Sober Judgement"?

Remember, there's always a new beginning awaiting--as we respond to His leading.

It starts with an honest 'self-checkout'.

Are you willing?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What are You Conforming To?

Back in the day, in the 80's, when I was growing up, there were a group of people that was growing in influence. You've seen them in movies, and there is certainly a 'remnant' of them around today:

The Punkers.

These were the people who wore their hair spiked and colored, who had all black fashions, boots, chains, piercings, and so on. 

They looked very intimidating.

What were they after?

Well, I've learned enough in my 50+ years to know that I can't 'generalize' as if I know every one of their hearts, but I did talk to several, and learned from interviews, etc: They wanted to show their Non-Conformity to the 'established' ways of the predominant culture.

So, they altered their appearance, their music, their demeanor, and they stood out from the culture.

Then they did something interesting...they joined together with others who were of similar mindset, appearance, and tastes, with similar goals and methods. 

They 'conformed' to that group!

Truth is, we all want to stand out in some ways, and we all want to conform in other ways. Neither are necessarily bad, and in many ways it may be very good!

All of us 'conform' to something. We try to look a certain way, buy certain things, drive a certain kind of car, wear certain clothes and fashion our hair in a certain way.

So, here's the question: What are YOU 'conforming' to?

Are you conforming to the middle class, suburbanite lifestyle?
Are you conforming to the upwardly-mobile, trendy and success-driven lifestyle?
Are you conforming to the in-your-face, rebellious against society lifestyle?

Here's a news flash for all of us: God WANTS US to "CONFORM"!

Don't believe me? As I've been working my way through Romans, I found this familiar verse:

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2a)

God wants us to avoid 'conforming' to this world's values, but instead to 'conform' to His values--and in the process, to be TRANSFORMED by the renewing (changing, spiritually re-wiring) of our minds. 

So, the Lord tells us, if we are 'Christ Followers' that we should conform..but it should be to His Word, His teaching, and His example, not the fashions, values, and philosophies of this world.

...and He promises a payoff too!

"...Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2b)

He's saying, in essence, 'Look, I want you to know me. I want you to experience my blessings. I want you to experience my closeness and connection, and to live in the confidence that I am leading you to the best life possible. I want you to understand that, as you let me do my work and you surrender yourself to me, you will be blessed, and I will be glorified!' 

Are we willing to listen? 
Are we willing to learn?
Are we willing to 'conform' to His revealed will, and in the process to be 'transformed'?

Or...are we content to 'fit in' with some temporary group in this world?

Make no mistake: You are conforming...the only question is, 'To what?'

Monday, August 19, 2013

LIVING Sacrifice?

I read these familiar verses from Romans 12 today: 

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."  (Romans 12:1-3)

And, rather than speed right by them because they're so familiar, I decided I would stop and try to hear what God was saying to me (and us) through them.

I didn't get very far.

First, Paul says "Therefore" (told it wasn't very far).

What's this about? Well, anytime you see a 'therefore' it is (of course) a link to the thought just before it, and in this case, Paul was talking all about the Grace and Mercy of God, and how we did not deserve it, but that He gave it anyway--to Jews and Gentiles--and made us 'one' in Christ. We should not take that for granted, but should be humbled, appreciative, and grateful.

...and what should we DO with that?

"I urge offer your bodies as a 'Living Sacrifice' to God."

Living Sacrifice? 

Isn't the whole point of a 'sacrifice' in the Scripture that it is dead? After all, before an animal is sacrificed on the altar in Scripture, it is always killed. It's dead. That's part of the power of the sacrifice!

Yet, Paul tells us to be a "LIVING Sacrifice".

How do we do that? How do we 'sacrifice' our lives on an ongoing basis.

Picture it this way: 

If everything you were involved in, everything you were passionate about, everything and everyone you loved was able to be held in your hands. Picture yourself putting those things in a box, and then putting that 'box' on the altar.

Paul is calling us to offer each one of those things up to God as a give them over to God in surrender. In this way, we are putting God first in life, before all those other things, and that is an act of 'worship'.

But Paul is also calling us live that way! To live every interest, every pursuit, every hour, every relationship, everything as if we're continually putting it back on that altar! 

It calls for focus and prayerful live every moment as if you are giving that moment (and whatever you're doing during that moment) back to God as an act of worship.

If we do this, it will change how we go through our lives in a BIG way!

Imagine if you lived every moment as though you were offering it up to God, putting that 'box' on the altar. How would you live differently?

How much time would you waste at home or at work?
How much immorality would you allow in?
How many arguments would you have?
How much sarcasm would you allow?
How much money would you spend on trivial things?

If we 'got' this...if we really took it to would revolutionize our lives!

The holy life which would result, and the power of God that would show through would be amazing!

...and really, this IS our 'spiritual act of worship'. It's the appropriate thing to do.

Try it today. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring it to your mind throughout the day and help you to picture yourself giving each moment over to God, putting it on the 'altar' of worship. Then watch what He does.

It will be amazing!