Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Churh...at Home!

Christmas Church at Home
December 25, 2011

We at KCC hope that you and your family are having a great Christmas celebration! Wherever you are, if Jesus is in your heart by faith, you can have ‘church’—especially as you are able to join with other family members and friends.

We wanted to put something together for your reflection, enjoyment, and participation which might help you to remember the True reason to celebrate today, and to give Him your worship as you do so.

Let us encourage you: If you have access to a computer, check out the links. Take the time to discuss the questions. Take turns reading the passages out loud…in this way, we believe you will find yourself moved, reflecting on God’s love for you, thankful and humbled before Him.

May God bless you and your family.

Merry, blessed Christmas!

Pastor Dave and the KCC Staff

To begin, check this out:
(copy and paste links in separate browser):

(youtube: Linus Christmas monologue)

Discuss your answers to these questions:

Do you have a ‘best friend?’ Who is it?

Has your best friend ever been nice to you when other people weren’t?

Have you ever had someone stick with you when other people turned their backs on you?

Have you ever had tough circumstances in life, when a close friend was a welcome relief?

Have you ever been the one to stay by a friends’ side through difficult circumstances?

What is the value of a friend who is “WITH” you—in every way?

Read these accounts of Jesus’ birth:
(Suggestion: Take turns reading each paragraph.)

(Matthew 1:18-24)
“18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(“Jesus” means “The Lord saves”.)
22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.”


How hard do you think it was for Joseph to believe the Angel and marry Mary?

What was his response to God’s message to him?

(Luke 1:26-38)
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.”

Watch this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezwp10egu-c

(The Nativity Story, part 5/10, the clip begins at the 1:13 and goes to the 6:30 mark.)


Why would it have been difficult for Mary to follow this call?

What was her response?

What name were they supposed to give Him? What did it mean?

In the passage from Matthew, the angel said (or implied) that this child would be the actual Son of God.
(See Matthew 1:20, 23 and Luke 1:32, 34)

According to the Scripture, what does “Immanuel” mean?
(See Matthew 1:23)
Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOQRtYYERGo (Amy Grant: Breath of Heaven w/Footage from The Nativity Story)
Jesus’ birth—and the miraculous way it happened—meant that He was literally the “Son of God”. He was partly ‘God’, partly ‘human’ (because Mary, his mother, was human).
He was—in a very real sense—“God in the flesh”. (As one writer referred to Him: “God with skin and bones”.)

That meant that God was—while Jesus was alive, at least, “God With Us.”


How would it help you to know that Jesus—as a human—could relate to some of the struggles that you go through?

Would it help you to know that Jesus understands your difficult days, your hurts, and even your temptations? How?

Colossians 1:15 says that “Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.”

Hebrews 4:15 says that He “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same [trials and temptations] we do, yet he did not sin.”

So…if Jesus was “God in the flesh”, or “God with us”…and if He still IS with us and is still “saving His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), how can that help you?

If all true, how does that change the way you think of Christmas?

(youtube: The Nativity Story - "Come and Worship" Bebo Norman)

Finally, sing this song together
(or listen to it at the link below, or on a cd of your own.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNL8yHomU2s&feature=related (Youtube: Amy Grant Little Town)

O Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
Watch this and sing along!
(Joy to the World, Chris Tomlin, Joy-Unspeakable Joy)

Finally, close in prayer, thanking God for sending Jesus to be “God with Us”, and ask Him to remind us always that He IS with us—always!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best Gift EVER!

What was the best Christmas Gift YOU ever got?

For me it had to be the GI Joe Headquarters-- complete with searchlight and morse-code station; or maybe the GI Joe Training Tower, with the 'zip line" and another search light.

There were some REALLY good gifts I got when I was a kid.

Now, our kids (like most) are asking for more 'technology-driven' games, etc.

What will be their 'best-ever gifts'?

I'm realizing, as I've gotten (ahem!) older...that the gifts that I thought were the best really weren't. In fact, I got rid of them a few years later. Some were broken, others just unused.

The gifts that have stuck with me?


I am thankful for both of my parents, my wonderful wife and kids, my siblings, and my friends--some of YOU!

These relationships--with the love, commitment and faithfulness they have, are the things that really matter.

Come to think of it, the Most Important Relationship I have--that with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ--is the most long-term, committed, faithful relationship I could hope for!

Newsflash: Christmas is 10 days away!

As the Christmas season winds down, I'm SURE there will be frenzy! I'm SURE we'll be doing some last minute shopping, baking, etc.

I'm pretty sure it'll be hectic at times.

But I'm equally sure that the best gift I hope for this year is to be near those I love, to spend real time with them, to enjoy them, and to direct each other to the God who loves us.

I hope and pray that we don't lose that focus within the next 10 days...and that you and your family and friends embrace and appreciate the 'gift' that you are to one another!

Take some time to share some love with each other this Christmas!

Remember Jesus' own words: "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)

Blessed Christmas,


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Song Devo: "Some Children See Him"--with video!

This song was sung wonderfully by Brian Drews and danced to beautifully by Rachel Johson in Kalamazoo Community Church's Christmas program, "Rediscover Christmas" last weekend. I am taking each song as an opportunity to reflect on the events of Christ's birth, and our response.

Christmas--the Birth of Jesus, the Christ.

This is one of the few events in history which unites the entire world!

There was probably no way that the people involved in the Christmas narrative found in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1 could have possibly known what significance that birth would have.

Granted, the angel had told Mary...
"You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.
He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.
And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”(Luke 1:30-33)

...and that same angel had told Joseph...
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus[which means "The Lord saves"], for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

...but there's just no way they could have ever imagined that in the year 2011, people all over the world would celebrate that baby's birth!

Yet...we do!
...and it unites those who love and follow Him all over the world.

True, most children 'see him' like they are (as the song says). Factually, of course, we know that He was Jewish, and therefore looked like a Jewish baby of the day.

Yet, the important thing (and the point of the song) is that we each see Him as Lord, and we'll see like we are, "but bright with heavenly grace, and filled with holy light".

So what is to be our response?

The song tells us ..."Oh, lay aside each earthly thing, and with thy heart as offering, Come worship Christ the infant King"!

THAT is our response!

No matter what we look like, no matter what part of the world we're in, our response to the events of Christmas is WORSHIP and SURRENDER!

What a beautiful gift to give Him--the Christ child--today.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Song Devo: "Christmas Time Is Here"--With cool video!

What a wonderful time of year this is!

It often seems as though people are more friendly at this time of year (ok, except for the WalMart pepper-sprayers!), and there's just a different kind of 'spirit' in the air.

Christmas Time is here!

In Kalamazoo Community Church's recent "Rediscover Christmas" program, one of the songs (sung beautifully by Amanda Laplace) was "Christmas Time is Here" by Bebo Norman. (NOT the Charlie Brown version!)

What does this song say? Essentially that we have the option--WE have the choice--to be one of those who spread Christmas Cheer! The song is essentially a wish for blessing for all--that we wish Peace to others, Hope for the Hopeless, and Laughter for those in tears. It's a commitment to "lay our weapons down" and let our "walls disappear". Then we will actually experience peace--because "Christmas Time is Here"!

This is a nice sentiment, but only a couple of things can really make it a reality:

First, the peace, hope, and laughter only come BECAUSE of Jesus, born that first Christmas--so draw close to Him!

Second, we will only experience these things as WE take responsibility to choose to be positive, encouraging and hopeful.

There are MANY negative people in this world--we can be one of them very easily, but we don't HAVE to be!

Instead, you and I can determine to be one of those who spread Christmas Cheer--sincerely expressing our hope and prayers for peace, hope, laughter and love for others at Christmastime.

There is a LOT of attention right now (as every year) about whether we say 'Happy Holidays' or "Merry Christmas". I certainly like the latter, rather than the former, but much more importantly is the REALITY that you and I can direct people to "The Prince Of Peace"--Jesus! When they come to know Him, a whole new world will be opened for them. That would be a great Christmas wish!

As the Scriptures say "He Himself is our peace..." (Ephesians 2:14)

So, do I wish you "Merry Christmas"? Sure!
Do I hope for your "Peace, hope, laughter", and so on? Absolutely!

But more importantly, I echo the words of the Apostle Paul:

"I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)

THAT is my Christmas wish for you...and for all of us!

Blessed Christmas,


Monday, December 5, 2011

O Come All Ye Faithful

The Music of Christmas--

Can be a POWERFUL aid in helping us to actually quiet our lives, focus our minds, and WORSHIP Christ,the Lord.

The song, O Come All Ye Faithful, is a call to do just that--to get up out of our seats, to pull ourselves away from the holiday madness, and to "Adore Him--Christ, the Lord"!

In fact, this song doesn't only call us--the "faithful", but also the "choirs of angels"...it's calling all of Creation to Worship Christ the Lord! It's a party! It's a celebration!

It reminds me that all of creation--mankind, angelic beings, plants, animals--all living things on the Earth--are presently subjected to the curse, because of sin. One day all of it will be delivered, and all living things will bow down to worship this "Christ, the Lord".

As we read in Romans 8:
"For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:18-21)

What a celebration THAT will be!

Yet, in the meantime it is up to us!

Those of us who know "Christ the Lord" are called to greet Him, to welcome Him, and to worship Him.

"Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord."

At Christmastime, let's party!
...but let's party in worship of the One who came to Earth on that day!

O Come, let us adore Him!

Blessed Christmas,


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Positively Thankful!

Have you ever noticed how easy it has become to complain, and to be negative, critical, and pessimistic?

LOTS of people in our culture today have adopted that mindset...and this week...perhaps more than any other week for Americans...is when it needs to STOP!

I want to stop it--at least for myself! I want to be POSITIVE!
How about you?

This week, we take time to consider the Blessings that Almighty God has given us--from LIFE, to LIBERTY, and all our everyday blessings (family; job; food, clothing, shelter); Most importantly, He's given us the possibility of a relationship with Himself, through Jesus Christ!

He IS the source of all blessings... "Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens." (James 1:17)

So it only makes sense that, in all our 'Thankfulness' this week, we take time to thank that Loving, Wise SOURCE of all blessings.

We used to do that...all the time!
It used to be part of our culture to acknowledge and thank our Great God for His blessings and involvement in our lives, and in our country.

For Example, below is the entire text of President George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation back in 1789:

"WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLIC THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;- and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; - to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

Signed: George Washington
Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

We need people to talk that way again...WE need to talk that way again...and we can--IF we start to THINK that way again!

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Generosity...the Better Way!

If you read my blog yesterday , You know that I believe it's possible to be self-centered from both sides of the 'have vs have-not' spectrum.

Selfishness leads us to excuse our own bad behavior while seeing others' quite clearly. We can justify our selfishness by saying we 'deserve' what we can get...but if we are followers of Jesus Christ, He calls us to a much Better Way!

He calls us to be generous!
To be willing to give away our money...but also our time, our talents, and so on.

He calls us to rise to new heights of behavior, motivated by a new kind of love...God's love...for others.

Remember that Jesus, when challenged about the 'Greatest of the Commandments', 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; and the second is like it: "You must love your neigbor as yourself"." (Matthew 22:37-39)

He said that the "Entire Law and the (teaching of the) prophets are fulfilled in these 2 commandments" (Matthew 22:40)

In other words, if we want to please God, then our Top Priorities are to love Him above all else, and love others as ourselves.

That means (among many other things), being generous!

Generosity is not only the opposite of selfishness, it's also the antidote to it!

If we can rise above our self-centeredness and learn to give--even when times are tough; even when it seems as though others are getting ahead (even if by unfair practises); even when we feel justified in making demands--we can experience that blessing of God working through us!

If we will focus on being God's "conduit of love" in practical ways--such as generosity--I believe He will notice. What's more, I believe He will bless us for doing so!

Jesus said "Seek first His Kingdom, and His righeousness, and all these things (ie, your needs) will be given to you." (Matthew 6:34).

We also read in the Scripture that "You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)

How cool would it be if God's people...Christ followers...would live this out consistently! How amazed would the rest of this world be if we rose above the clamor of the current 'I want what you have' mindset and became generous agents of blessing in this world!

God could do something pretty powerful in our hearts...and through our lives...if we were willing to do that. That's what He did in the early Church (see Acts 2, 4), and that's part of the reason that it changed the world--through love, faith...and generosity!

May God give us that spirit again today!

May the "song" of our lives sing--for HIS glory!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Selfishness has NOTHING TO DO with how much MONEY you have!

It's no secret, the world is in financial turmoil.

In Europe, they've got a few countries (Britain, France and Germany) propping up other countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain) in order to keep the Euro going.

In America, we've got Occupy Wall Street (or Oakland, or Houston, or Washington D.C....) movement that is calling for a more "fair" distribution of wealth. On the other end of the Spectrum, we've got politicians who are getting donations from corporations, which then get loopholes, contracts, and (especially) bailouts from the politicians. These corporations often turn around and use those bailouts for themselves--their own "corporate greed"--more than to help the people and customers.

What's a Christian to think?
What is a follower of Jesus Christ supposed to do in these times?

Let me suggest that the FIRST thing we need to do is pray. Seek the Lord. HE is our hope and our provider!

" I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!" (Psalm 121:1-2)

Our only REAL hope is not in our currency, in our goverment, in the United Nations, or anything else...our hope is in the Lord!

The SECOND thing to do, I would suggest, is to commit ourselves--again--to following Him, NO MATTER WHAT our circumstances are, and NO MATTER WHAT our circumstances become!

Whether you or I are working or not, rolling in money or not, or securely in our homes or not, we MUST stand up and follow the Lord!

That means that you and I--as followers of Jesus--must not allow ourselves to slip into (among other things) selfishness.

Selfishness is anti-Christian.

If there is one person in history who was unselfish, it was Jesus. He denied Himself, took on the form of a human, with all its limitations, then died at the hands of those humans He came to save!

It doesn't take much thought to realize that this idea is radical, compared to what we normally see and hear about on the news.

The "Fat-cat CEO's"--selfish? Yup!

The Occupy Wall Street "Protestors"--selfish? You Bet your student loan, they are!

BOTH groups are putting 'self' first--and blaming the other for doing precisely the same thing!

'Selfishness' has NOTHING TO DO with the amount of money you have! It has EVERYTHING TO DO with the kind of person you allow yourself to be, the kind of focus and motivation you choose to have, and the goals you have in your life.

We have probably all known wealthy (or at least 'well-to-do') people who are very generous. I've known some very wealthy people who are kind, generous, and sacrificial.

...but you may not have thought about how 'selfish' many of the people you've known who do NOT have much money are being!

Anyone who seems to say "I want more money, I deserve more money, I demand more money", and (especially) "I want YOUR money" is being selfish, period. We can excuse it all we want, but for a follower of Jesus Christ, there is NO EXCUSE!

We MUST rise above the current "us vs. them" mindset and set a new tone!
We MUST seek to follow Jesus--in word and in deed--no matter what others are doing.

The truth is that Europe may collapse...and if it does, America may do so as well--and then, if that happens, you and I are going to need to determine--are we going to be Christ followers who help each other, or are we going to be selfish people who only look out for our own interests?

It has NOTHING to do with how much money you have!

"Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross." (Philippians 2:3-8)


Thursday, October 27, 2011

If only I had THAT...

It's one thing we all--rich, poor; white, black (or otherwise); educated or not, deal with:

The desire for more.

The desire for a life that's better than my own.

Contentment seems elusive for many of us. We look at other people's lives--their relationships, their financial situation, their job, their house, car, tv, and other material possessions, and we think "If only I had what they have,then I could be content".

It's a trap that many fall into.

...and honestly, I think it's what's behind the Occupy Wall Street (and other cities) movement. If only I had part/half/all of what 'those people' have, I could be happy.

But, whether it's the rich dudes on Wall Street, or the family in the nicest house of your neighborhood, the truth is this:

It's NOT about Them!
It IS about you!

What you do with your life--how you look at it, the messages you give yourself every day, the things you focus on and the goals you set for yourself--that's on YOU!

(Should we, as a country, make the opportunities for upward mobility available for all? YES! Should we take others down in order to lift some up? I don't think so!)

Here's the thing: God writes each of the 'stories' of our lives in ways which are unique to US! I will go through things in my life that you'll never go through (in fact, I'm pretty sure I already have!), and you'll go through things that I will never experience. Sometimes the private wars and battles that your neighbors in that nice house are facing would make your trials seem insignificant...but the key is this:

God wants to engage you in your life--not in someone else's!

Will you open yourself up to engaging with the Lord in your current circumstances, or will you continue to buy the cultural lie that, if you can't have it as good as someone else, you can never possibly be content?

6 "Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

The Lord has blessed you--in many ways. Do you have food? Do you have clothing? Do you have shelter?

Do you have liberty and freedom? Do you have the ability to worship God freely, or to choose the kind of work you do, or to marry the person you want?

Chances are good that, if you and I had 'eyes to see', we'd be able to list HUNDREDS of everyday blessings that we experience.

...and yet, we fall into that trap: "If only I had that..."

Don't do it!
Don't let yourself go there!

Focus instead on the Lord, and on the place you're at right now (including your blessings), then focus on how YOU can move forward! Focus on how YOU can walk in step with the Lord's plans for you...and then--only then--will you find contentment!

Blessings on you,


Friday, September 23, 2011

Rise Above the Fray!

It's so easy to get sucked in! It's so easy to let the gossip, the negativity, the criticism get to us. When our coworkers, classmates, family members...even our fellow churchgoers become negative, the easiest thing in the world is to go along with them...and, like a whirlpool, we get gradually sucked in and dragged down!

Unfortunately, in our society, this happens all the time!

It is rare, in fact, to find a person who is positive, one who chooses not to gossip or criticize others. One who chooses to 'believe the best' (ala 1st Corinthians 13:7)

If you are blessed to know someone like that, I'm sure they stand out in your life and experience.

They're like a breath of fresh air!

Isn't that what Jesus called us to be, though?

Remember, He said "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden; neither do people light a lamp and cover it up. Rather, they put it in a prominent place, that it may give light to the whole house. In the same way, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16).

What if one of those 'good deeds' had to do with our speech? What if we asked God to enable us to think and speak well of others, and to be positive, helpful, and optimistic--because God is at work!

I guarantee we'd stand out!

I was reading Romans recently, and came across these verses that I haven't been able to get out of my mind:
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Romans 12:17-21

How refreshing it would be if we lived this out!

If we applied this to our world, in our workplace, our classrooms, and even in our homes and churches!

Instead of keeping score, choosing to be negative, and gossiping about it, we chose instead to be 'the one' who chooses to rise above it. How cool would that be? Others might look at you crosseyed at first...

...but I'll bet they'd want to be around you more!
...and I'll bet they'd want to know why you're so positive...

...and God would recieve the glory!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You Never Know What's Going to Hit you!...but you can RISE!

So...I heard on the news that a satellite the size of a schoolbus is headed for Earth in the next day or two.

Might break apart into several 250 pound chunks, plus many small ones...but might not; Might hit over water...over the US...over Michigan...but might not.

So far, I haven't seen 'wall to wall' media coverage, but I've got to assume that this will actually become pretty serious when it starts entering the atmosphere (anyone seen 'Transformers'?)

So, the real question is: What should we DO about this? Should you stay in your basement? Should you wear a helmet all day? Carry an umbrella?

Seriously, I'm sure some people will be pretty concerned about this. Some might even be scared. (Don't get me wrong: If I look up and see a large object hurling toward me in flames, I'm gonna be a bit perplexed...might even run!).

Now, the odds of any specific piece of land getting hit by this stuff is miniscule. The odds against any specific person getting hit is incredibly small...but someone probably will!

...and that brings us to the serious question:

What SHOULD be our strategy for handling impending doom? What SHOULD we do when we think something might cause our death?

Here's a quick thought: Live in such a way as to be 'prepared' for death at any time!

Think about it: the odds of 'space junk' killing you or I is pretty slim...but the odds of us dying (at a time we don't know) is pretty much 100%!

What can we do to be 'prepared' for death?

Give our lives to Jesus Christ and let Him give us Eternal Life...then Live Like It!

Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die." (John 11:25-26)

That's the secret: We will all experience death, but some of us (by God's grace) will experience eternal LIFE, by faith in Jesus!

So, how about it? You may not get hit by space junk...but you DO need to be prepared for the inevitable. Are you living your own life, ignoring eternity, or are you living with belief in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, following Him to a triumphant end, no matter how it come!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Begging at My Father's Table

I LOVE being a dad!

Sure, I get tired at times, and at times I don't quite know how to 'get through' to various kids, but... I LOVE being a dad!

Start asking me what I love about each one of my kids, and I'll have no problem bragging on them...love each one!

With all that in mind, do you know how much it would actually HURT me if I thought that any of my kids didn't know that? It would rip my heart out if they thought that they had to BEG me for my love, or my blessing.

Bottom line: I love 'em so much that I WANT to bless them! They don't have to pry it out of me, or talk me into it. I ENJOY blessing my kids.

In fact, it sometimes pains me to say 'no'--because I know what's best for them, and, in that particular moment in that particular situation, it would not be best for them to have 'it' (whatever 'it' might be).

...but I DO NOT want them to ever feel like they have to beg me for needs like water, food, shelter, nor do I want them feeling like they need to beg me for blessings of any kind.

I am their father. I love them. I want to bless them.

It is amazing to me, though, how often I still treat my Heavenly Father as though I need to 'beg Him for blessings'. He is THE Perfect Father. He loves me (as He does each one of His children), and that means it is natural in His heart to want to bless me. (Not to spoil me...not to be my 'sugar daddy', and not to satiate my lusts and demands...but to bless me with good things.)

I find myself asking God--my perfect, loving Heavenly Father--for 'scraps from His table' when He wants to bless me with the seat right next to Him at the banquet!

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!
So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

I guess the question I have to ask myself is, "Do I really BELIEVE that God loves me as His child, and that He wants to bless me?"

If I don't...why not?
Could it be that I've bought into a lie about God?
Could it be that I've been deceived?

I think so!

...and, as a dad, I think of how it must hurt My Father to know that I don't believe in His love--not really.

"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children." (Romans 8:15-16)

Lord...Father in Heaven...Dad...teach us to really understand, and to KNOW that you are Good, you are Loving, and that you really do WANT to bless us.

Help us to stop the begging, and to have the confidence to come to you, our loving Father, as your true children.

You are my Father...you love me and I love you. Help me to rest in that love! I want to soak it up, enjoy it and learn to be confident in it!

I want to so 'delight' in Him that we become really 'close' again...like a daddy to his child.

May God help me to believe!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dependent Independence

In last week’s historic broadcast of the US Open Golf championship, this is what you would have seen:
Notice anything missing?
Obviously, the words “Under God” were edited out. NBC apologized later in the broadcast, saying it was not done to ‘offend’ anyone…but they have never explained WHY they did this.
QUESTION: Does it matter?

A couple of years ago, President Barack Obama said this:
Was he simply describing the reality of America today, or was he sharing his ‘progressive’ philosophy?
Question: Is he right?

QUESTION: Does it even matter?

I believe it DOES matter, and that the best hope for America’s future is a return to its Judeo/Christian roots…but probably not in the way that you think.

Let me explain.

America, it seems, was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation.
From the Mayflower Compact that the Pilgrims made in 1620 to John Winthrop, the 1st Governor of Massachusetts, faith—specifically the Judeo/Christian faith—was a bedrock of belief for them.
Winthrop wrote these lines, which President Ronald Reagan would later reference for our modern age:
“the only way to avoid this shipwreck (ie, being punished by God) “and to provide for our posterity is to follow the counsel of Micah—to “do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.
For this end, we must be knit together in this work…We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and a glory, that men of succeeding settlements will say “May the Lord make us like New England”
…and we shall find that we are “A city on a Hill”. (a Reference to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, that we are “a light to the world”, and a “city on a hill” that His followers—who put their faith into action—should be like a city on a hill—meaning a light and an example to all.)

The founders were mostly Christian men…some were ministers, most were educated in seminaries, in which it was taught that the best way to govern our lives—individually, and as a group—were from principles founded in the scripture.
The belief in American exceptionalism was NOT that Americas traditions, etc. were better than others, nor that the American people were better…but the belief that God played a DIRECT and ACTIVE role in founding of the American people. Many of the founders believed that, without God’s direct action and blessing, America as a nation would have never come to be, nor would it continue.
George Washington wrote that it was “incumbent upon the American people to show gratitude, both publicly and privately, to the Great Author of every public and private good”.
James Madison observed that we owe our first allegiance to the Ruler of the Universe.
Benjamin Franklin, easily the most ‘progressive’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ with respect to philosophy and religion, said that “doing good to men is the only service of God in our power, and to imitate his beneficence is to glorify him”. He referred to this as the “American Religion”.

Time Magazine has recently come out with an issue that questions the relevance of our Constitution. In a obviously biased survey with leading questions throughout, they end up showing that Americans don’t still buy into the Constitution.
But the founders were very clear: The only way “America” would work would be to KEEP THE PEOPLE voluntarily submitting themselves to God…and if they stopped doing so, the so-called ‘American experiment’ would lose the active blessing of God, and would (they feared) cease to be.
Daniel Webster wrote, “I can see no danger to our country from a foreign foe…Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another {source}: The inattention of the people to the concerns {and actions} of their government—from the carelessness and negligence of the people.”
Samuel Huntington wrote, “While the great body of citizens are acquainted with the duties which they owe to their God, to themselves, and to men, they will remain free; but if ignorance and depravity should prevail, they will inevitably lead to slavery and ruin.”

As they put together our founding documents they embraced the role of God—

In the Declaration of Independence—which we celebrate tomorrow—they wrote,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States..
…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Abigail Adams, to her husband, John: (after the battle of Bunker Hill—as he was in Philadelphia serving in the 2nd Continental Congress): “The race is not to the swift, not the battle to the strong, but the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Trust in him at all times, you people, pour out your hearts to Him. God is a refuge for us—Charleston is laid in ashes…may Almighty God cover the heads of our Countrymen, and be a shield to them”.
Patrick Henry, in his famous speech in St. John’s Church, said this:
“They tell us, sir, that we are weak—unable to cope with so formidable an adversary (as the British army)..Sir, we are not week, if we make proper use of tho0se means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three million people armed in the holy cause of liberty…are invincible by any force which our enemy can send. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight..
He finished with the famous lines “I know not what course others may take, but as for me…give me liberty, or give me death!”

After their freedom and liberty were won, Washington wrote, “The man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe, whose divine interposition was so frequently manifest in our behalf. And it is my earnest prayer that we may so conduct ourselves as to merit t a continuance of those blessings with which we have hitherto been favored.”

Their faith was not only ‘in the back of their minds’…it was front and center for many of them:
George Washington said “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable support. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness”

Our Constitution—our basis for all laws and collective behavior—was influenced in large ways by the Judeo-Christian ethics that the founders knew and embraced.
Ideas like ‘all men are created equal’ and that our “inalienable rights” don’t come from the state or the king, but from God—were radical at the time. (And they still make a huge difference today…because, if our ‘rights’ come from the government, that gives the govt. the ability to take them away!)
The very idea that each person could be counted on to give their input into the form and specific officers of the government, and that peaceful transitions of power would be written into this constitution were very radical at the time. One man/one vote was unheard of at the time.
John Adams, after the Constitution was ratified, wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other”
Even Thomas Jefferson, who rivaled only Benjamin Franklin in his religious tolerance, wrote “can the liberties of a nation be thought to be secure when we have removed their only firm basis—a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God?”

From it’s inception, America’s ‘identity’ has been “Independent”…but it’s been a “Dependent Independence”. America has been “dependent” on Almighty God for it’s freedom, liberty…and it’s “Independence”.

Even today, our attempts to export this “Democratic Republic” style of Govt. reminds us that it isn’t only about a set of laws, or a constitution. This form of govt. will not be welcomed—and thus, will not ‘stick’—unless the culture it’s being offered to will welcome it.

This is a uniquely Judeo-Christian idea.
The 10 commandments, for example, have played a huge role—not only in ancient Israel—but in America. Moses figures prominently in the writings of the founders, as well as in the sculptures and artwork in our halls of power.

So, again, I don’t believe there’s any doubt that America was founded as a Judeo-Christian nation, and that this partly explains why we have been the most prosperous, most powerful, and most liberating nation of all time.

That is why America has historically also been the most generous nation on Earth.
Americans give away hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars to charity—here at home and abroad—every year…more than 2 x as much as the next most generous nation.

When other nations are in trouble—via natural disaster, modern mishap, or military threat—they have a tendency to drop their protest signs against America, and instead come to us for help.
And, for the most part, Americans answer—in a HUGE way.
I believe that a PART of the reason for the freedom, liberty, prosperity and success that we have experienced is that we have, historically, welcomed the role of God—specifically the God of the Bible-- in our lives and our governance.
“Blessed is the nation who’s god is the LORD!” (Ps. 33:12)

Question is, ‘what now’?

Clearly, we are no longer the kind of nation we were during the era of the founders.
America’s population—largely because of it’s status as a beacon for freedom and liberty in the midst of a dark world—has changed dramatically.
America has been a ‘melting pot’ virtually from its inception…we have welcomed immigrants from around the world. We have not demanded that they forget where they came from, but have demanded that they become “Americans”, first and foremost.
We have had a process for legal immigration that has worked well for hundreds of years. We have had citizenship tests (which most of us would probably fail), and have held up the flag of this country as a unifying symbol—of a republic, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
…and it’s worked! More people try to get here to become citizens than any other country in the world!
America is, as John Winthrop put it back in 1620, ‘A shining city on a hill” that others would look to and be attracted to!

Yet, again…we are very different now.
Our racial and ethnic makeup is changing, and from a religious standpoint, we are different as well.

(If we were close to 100% adherents to Christianity in 1776, what do you think we are now?)
According to a Pew Research study a couple of years back, here’s what I found:

Is it possible for America in the year 2011 to be governed by the same Judeo-Christian principles which have guided and directed for centuries?
I believe it is!
Not only that, but I believe it’s critical!
Our very constitution…our very existence as a nation—is at stake!
Time magazine…Constitution…weighted article seems largely designed to make it look irrelevant.

Are our best days as a nation behind us?

Many people who look at Biblical Prophecy about the end times note that, in all the proposed scenarios, America does not play into their understanding of end time events at all.
Could it be that America will not participate in battles over Israel, or in ‘wars and rumors of war’ for one reason or another?
Is it possible that we’d be so financially strapped that we wouldn’t help our one middle eastern ally, which also has a Democratic Republic style of govt.—if they were attacked?
Is it possible that America would be so focused on one kind of ‘crisis’ or another at home that we literally could not get involved in these kinds of events?
Is it possible that Americans would be so sick and tired of helping other people that—largely like we did for the lead up to the 2nd world war, we’d bury our head in the sand and say ‘it’s none of our business’?
Is it POSSIBLE that America—when the end time events roll around (which MAY not be as distant as you think) WILL NOT EVEN EXIST?

Because we have rejected—or are in the process of rejecting—the Judeo Christian background that we’ve had, we are beginning to implode.
Our moral standards have lost all bearing—and now almost literally ‘anything goes’.
Our respect for God—and his role in our nation—is mocked and ridiculed, if it’s brought up at all.
It seems that the One Thing that is NOT to be ‘tolerated’ in America in this day and age is a person who is a Christian, and still believes that living life— individually and as a nation—by the Bible—or at least with Biblical beliefs as it’s foundation—is still the best way to live.
You and I can speak out about almost anything today. We can wave signs, we can have parades…we can do all of the above for almost any cause.
…but try to have a rally about returning to our Judeo-Christian roots, and you’ll be opposed, ridiculed, even assaulted.

So, what are we to do?
Back in the OT time, when the nation of Israel was literally “God’s people”, they were told in no uncertain terms by God Himself: I will be with you and will bless you…but if you turn from me and worship the false Gods, and follow the customs and practices of the nations around you, I will remove my hand of blessing from you, and will punish you.
…but He also promised that it would not be that way forever.
No matter the reason for the problem..whether it would be their sin, or God’s testing, one thing they could be sure of: If they called to Him, He would rescue them.
“If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Now, many Americans claim this verse as a way to get our country back on track, but we have to note that there are some differences between Israel and America…
Israel was a THEOCRACY…with God at the lead of the country.
America was never set up to be a Theocracy. Our founders saw the wisdom in religion, but did not want to mandate a particular religion.
This promise was to Israel, specifically.
America is not the equivalent of “My People, who are called by My name”

However, I DO think that the CHURCH in America fits that bill.
…and many of US in the CHURCH have done the very same things that God was warning His people of Israel against.

That’s why I personally believe that the key to America’s future is not so much in the politicians or the politics…but in the Church.

WE NEED TO COME CLEAN! WE need to repent!

WE need to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek His face and to TURN FROM OUR WICKED WAYS.
WE need to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

If we do that, I believe that He will continue to bless America…after all, even if the 82% figure is too high, it still shows that a significant number are showing up at church…and if they turn back to Him, He will do powerful things in this country…
AND He will use His people (the Christian church) to spread the great news and begin to change the country, one conversation, one person at a time…not as a ‘takeover’, but as a natural outgrowth of the Church being the Church.

So, what are we to do?
Well, we—Christ followers—are to FOLLOW CHRIST!

So we will no longer have the govt. to back up our policies and beliefs.
Follow Christ anyway.
There may come a time—not too far off, in my opinion—in which our beliefs will not only be mocked, but in some cases, outlawed.
Follow Christ anyway.
There may come a day—again, not too far off—in which the Govt. tries to step into the pulpits of our nation and tell us what we can and cannot say about behaviors, beliefs, mindsets and policies in our nation, from a Biblical perspective.
We will say it anyway.

We do not bow our knees to men and their governments…we bow our knees to Jesus only.

It may surprise you to hear that, in some ways, I agree with President Obama…our nation is NOT a Christian nation—not now.
After all, a ‘nation’ cannot be Christian.

We—in the Church—we Christians and Christ followers—may have relied on the govt. to be our friend over the years.
Sometimes we even thought that, by electing ‘our guys and gals’, our nation would be transformed into ‘heaven on earth’.
I don’t believe it will—period.
And that’s o.k., because here’s the truth:

No matter who is elected, and no matter what laws are passed, this nation will not be full of actual Christ followers UNLESS WE –the current followers of Jesus Christ—START LIVING IT OUT AND TALKING ABOUT IT MORE.

Our hope for our nation does not lie in laws and governments, but our hope for our nation lies in Jesus Christ…and ‘governments’ cannot turn to Jesus Christ, only individuals can.

We DO need to be convinced—today more than ever—that we are Christians first, Americans 2nd.

We need to be people who are committed to following Jesus, no matter what goes on in our culture.
We need to be educated and prayerful, and we need to be INFORMED when we vote. (And, I believe, we need to vote for those who we believe best fits with our identity as Christians.)
We need to get the Word out about God, about Jesus, about sin and salvation—one person at a time.

As to the nation, I still believe that the best days can be ahead…but it will only be that way IF the Church is the Church…not relying on the govt. to do what we should be doing—sharing the word, sharing our resources, and bringing both to those who need it…Living holy lives, dedicated to conformity to His Word and His Character, regardless of what our culture—and even our govt.—says about it.
Does God still want to “Bless” America?
I don’t know.
I don’t know what God’s plans are for the country of “the United States of America”
I DO know what Gods wants from the Church—he wants people who are committed to Him, living life according to His word, and loving Him and loving others—as He said.

He wants us to be purified, committed, and dedicated to Him.
As we do that, we will impact those around us.

…and I believe that THAT is America’s best hope—people coming to Jesus Christ.

So this weekend…and this week…let’s make sure that WE are “humbling ourselves” and ‘Praying”, ‘seeking His face” and “turning from our wicked ways”.

This weekend, Celebrate our Independence…but celebrate it in the right spirit—celebrate our DEPENDENT Independence!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rising above the Drama

It seems as though 'drama' is on the rise in our culture.

By 'drama', I mean negativity, gossip, slander, and criticism. Whether it's in politics, churches, circles of friends, it seems like this spirit of negativity is everywhere!

Maybe our media-saturated culture encourages it. 24/7 news, Twitter, Facebook...all make it very easy to level criticism at someone that we would almost never have the nerve to say to thier face!

It is so easy to put opinions out there that are hurtful, critical and flat-out rude...and then, someone responds...and others jump in...and you've got a full scale war of words on your hands!

Question: How is a follower of Jesus Christ to behave in this environment?

The easiest thing in the world is to join in and pile on...to add one more log to the fire. We know, though, that this is not what Jesus did--or would do. We know that the Spirit within us convicts us if we start to go over the line.

This calls for wisdom...fortunately, God promises to answer our prayers for that wisdom! "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking." (James 1:5)

...but remember that the Wisdom from the Lord is NOT like the so-called 'wisdom' of this world! People who don't know the Lord will advise you to do lots of things which, on the surface, seem to make sense, but in the long run will make things worse.

"But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)

When others gossip about you...when they malign you...when they criticize you unjustly and you want to lash out, don't! Let thier 'smallness' and negativity expose them for who and what they are. As for you,

"Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord
...Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."
(Romans 12:17-21)

It can be difficult to take this position. It can be tough to let others speak poorly of you without retaliating (again, the need for wisdom--sometimes it is warranted to straighten things out). Ultimately, we must strive to please God, not people...and we must lean on Him to defend us.

In the long run, He will.

So...when the negativity and gossip starts; when the anger directed at you for standing up for truth comes; when the 'haters' come out because of jealousy, and so on...rise above it!

Let God defend you!

Lean on Him for strength!

God is your fortress and strength!

He WILL give you victory!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SEE the rain today! (Video: Days of Elijah--Donnie McClurkin!)

Elijah has just had a MAJOR victory!

He stood up for the LORD and the prophets of Baal had been routed. The people had turned against those false prophets of a false god, and had killed them.

Now, 3 years after he first prophesied a drought, he began to look for rain.

He told Ahab to get moving...cuz "there is the sound of heavy rain" (1 Kings 18:41). Ahab must've thought he was nuts! It hadn't rained in 3 years...and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

But Elijah saw rain!

Elijah had his servant go to the top of Mt. Carmel and look into the sky..."There's nothing there", the servant said. 7 times Elijah sent him back--not wavering or doubting, just trying to discern God's timing--and the 7th time, he returned saying "A cluld as small as a mans's hand is rising from the sea". So Elijah said "Go and tell Ahab, "Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you." (vv.44-45).

Again, Elijah saw rain when there was no rain!

Elijah had learned that, when God decrees something, it's as good as done--it's only a matter of God's timing as to when it's done...and he knew that God had said it would not rain for 3 years. Now the 3 years was up, the prophets of Baal had been defeated, the LORD had been given the glory He was due, and therefore, Elijah knew that rain was coming.

Even in a blue sky, he could 'see' rain.
Even with a cloud the size of a human hand, he had seen rain.

His eyes didn't only look at things the way they were, but rather, the way they would be, as God did His work.

Elijah saw rain...by faith.

...and so can we.

When it feels as though your life is in a drought and a famine...like there is no blessing, like there is no 'life'--may you see the rain.

When it seems as though no one is standing with you against the onslaught of worldliness and evil...when you know you're standing on God's Word, but others try to get you to cave--may you see the rain.

When it seems as though God Himself is removed from you, and you can't 'feel' His presence. You know He's there, you know He's working, but you can't feel it--may you see the rain.

May God Himself give us 'eyes to see and ears to hear'. May you see in that cloud the size of a man's hand a great downpour of God's presence, blessing, and power...and may you walk it out, depending on Him for the timing.

"Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on..." (v. 45).

Today, May you 'see' the rain!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fire from Heaven--Glory of the TRUE God! (1 Kings 18) ("Give Us Clean Hands")

Elijah has already seen some amazing things. He's already been fed by Ravens, seen the oil and the flour of the widow who was caring for him be miraculously preserved (see previous posts), and The LORD has backed up Elijah's words and has not sent rain on the land of Israel for some time.

Yet, the people would not decide--were they going to follow the LORD, or follow the gods of the nations around them, such as Baal?

The Lord inspires Elijah to make it plain: he challenges the prophets of Baal and Asherah to 'showdown' of sorts.

Elijah calls to the people "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow Him." But the people said nothing." (1 Kings 18: 21)

Elijah (and the Lord) have had enough! Elijah says to 'Make 2 altars.. Dig ditches around them, but do not light them. You call to Baal, and I'll call to the Lord, and we will see which one shows up. The God who answers by fire--he is God!" (1 Kings 18:22-24).

The prophets of baal call out to him, pray to him, dance before him, shout do him, cut themselves for him from morning 'till noon. At noon, Elijah begins to taunt, "Shout louder--he may be asleep!". (v. 27)

They shouted louder, until evening. Still no one answered.

Elijah had seen enough. He called the people to himself, prepared the altar, then put the animal on for the sacrifice. He then did something very unusual--he had the people drench the sacrifice with water...jugs and jugs of it--until it filled up the trench aound the altar. He then said "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant...".

The the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench!" (1 Kings 18:38)

Then the people fell prostrate and cried "The LORD--He is God; The LORD--He is God!"and they seized the prophets of Baal.
(v. 39),

The lessons for us today?

1) God deserves all the praise we can give Him; He is the ONLY TRUE GOD.

2) God does not 'share' His glory with false 'gods'. He will drive us to make a decision--whether to follow Him or not. 3) It does not matter the size or the circumstances of the challenge--if God is going to move, He has more than enough power to move in mighty ways!

4) Do not 'waver'! We must declare--and remember, and reaffirm--our allegiance to the LORD! Do not give his glory to another--another
god, another desire, another pursuit.

There are many 'gods' or 'idols' in this world, but the LORD will not share the glory that He alone deserves. He will require us to make a decision, and will raise the pressure on us until we do. Let's save time, suffering, and grief...and decide now to follow the LORD

We must seek Him, follow Him, and serve Him!

The LORD--He is God! The LORD--He is God!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Let My Life Light Up...for You, Lord! (with video)

What is YOUR goal in life?

Did you even know that you have one?
We all have them...we just dont' think about them very often.

We have 'operational' goals--goals which drive us on a day to day basis:

For many of us, our goal is 'to get through the day'.
For others, it's 'to get our kids raised', or 'to get a better job', or 'to save money', etc.

Those are fine, for day to day goals...but what is your "LIFE Goal"?
What do you want to do with your whole life?

Many of us don't really think about those too much. We aren't aware of the power that these goals can have over our day-to-day existence.

The right 'Life Goal' can change your day-to-day existence in big ways!

When you know what your goal is in the 'Big Picture', it can dramatically change how you view the circumstances of the day.

For example, my Life Goal is 'To be so passionately committed to God, through my faith in Jesus, that every relationship and interaction I have is impacted positively for it'. I want my life to "Light Up" for Jesus.

I want my marriage, my relationships with my kids, coworkers, and friends to be genuinely impacted for the better because I 'bring Jesus' into those relationships. (Not that the others don't bring Jesus too...I'm just speaking of my own perspective.)

I believe that this matches up with God's goal for me...and it may very well be His goal for you too--if you are a Christ follower.

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering" (Romans 12:1-2)

My relationship with God, through faith in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit has changed me in dramatic and powerful ways...at the end of my life, my greatest prayer--my overall passion, my Life Goal--is that everyone sees this and is impacted by it.

I want my life to "light up like the city lights...to burn for You in the darkest night, Lord"!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Truth will set you FREE!

There's a lot of hate in the world!

Islamic extremists 'hate' America, Israel, and the western way of life. They 'hate' everyone who believes differently than they do.

People from the Westoro Baptist Church 'hate' America, American Servicemen and 1st Responders--because they 'hate' what America has become (and they think GOD 'hates' America).

To 'hate' someone or something is to see no positive in them. It is to wish them only pain, sorrow and death. It is to look forward to the day when they no longer exist.

In that case, the bumper sticker is right--"Hate is NOT a Family Value" (or for that matter, a Christian value).

...But there are a lot of things that are labeled as 'hate' that are not. "Hate speech" might simply be speaking out in disagreement with someone or something. Does doing so imply 'hate'?

Not in my mind, it doesn't!

You and I can disagree--even strongly--about important things. Christianity vs. other religions; Pro life vs. Pro Abortion opinions; America's right to go to war, vs. our need for peace; homosexuality as a viable lifestyle vs. God's Word on it.

We can disagree...but can we disagree without hate?

I think we can!

For me, as a Christ-follower, it comes down to this: I am called to glorify God by submitting my life--every aspect of it--to His revealed will in His Word. I do not (nor does anyone else) have the right to arbitrarily change His Word, or to 'pick and choose' what we believe about Him.

Am I going to do any of this to perfection? NO.

God knows--and everyone esle who knows me agrees--that I'm far from perfect at it.

Yet, I dare not change the standard, just to fit my preconceived ideas, or to fit with this world's philosophies.

What does the Word say?

"1 And so, dear brothers and sisters,I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

I believe--and am convinced--that God's will for us--as revealed in His Word--is indeed, "Good, pleasing, and perfect". He WANTS us to experience freedom...beauty...holiness...liberation.

But that does not come from adopting the standards and practises of this world! Rather, it comes from adapting our lives to HIS standards and practises--as revealed in the Scriptures, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

My desire is not to condemn...it is, rather, to help you see the path to freedom and blessing. I am not being "hateful", but rather, I'm trying to be genuinely--and for real--"Loving".

May God teach us the difference between disagreement...and 'hate'.

...and may He enable us to experience all the blessing He has to offer!

Love to all,


Friday, May 27, 2011

My Chains Are Gone!--with video

Freedom...something we all love and long for, but something that many of us don't experience.

I'm not talking about 'legal' or 'political' freedom--most of us do have that, and we Americans do enjoy that.

I'm talking about SPIRITUAL freedom.

Most of us--even in churches every Sunday--don't experience this kind of freedom.

I believe God wants us to.

To be sure, we are saved by God's Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone.

Many of us have come to understand that and embrace that--and to that level, we understand 'freedom'. But I believe that many of us Christians don't really ever get to 'freedom' in this life. Rather, we hang on and wait 'till this life is over--and then we experience it.

But I think God wants to release us from the 'chains' which hold us back in the here and now.

The fear of others' opinions...
The power of temptation...
The emotional baggage from our past...
Our relational struggles...
Our self-centered focus...

All of these things keep us 'in'. They keep us trapped in our own little cocoon--our 'safe place'. We figure that, if we don't allow ourselves to venture out into freedom, at least we don't risk rejection..or failure...or change!

I think that, for many Christians, one of our biggest fears--with the heaviest chains of all--is our fear of really trusting God...

We can't seem to bring ourselves to believe that He IS sufficient, He IS trustworhty, He CAN and WILL 'free' us, support us...and "lead us home".

"It is by God's GRACE that you have been saved, through faith. And this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God--not a result of your good works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

How would YOUR life be different if you were really "free" in Christ?

I know that, for me, I'd be less concerned about people's opinions of me, less fearful about 'stepping out' into new directions that God is wanting to lead me into, and I'd be more 'real' and 'present' in my relationships. I'd stop holding back, and really be me!

...and, like a friend of mine had the courage to do, I'd live it out 'till the very end!

THEN I'd really experience Freedom in Christ!

God has made us free...let's learn to experience it in reality!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rise Today--Change YOUR World! (With ROCKIN video!)

I just finished a Celebration of the Life of a friend, Joe Dillon.

As I reflect on the kind of person he was, it makes me want to refocus myself.

He was a man who focused on Faith, Family and Friendships, and I want to do the same--in that order!

The truth is, though, that we can't just make that decision one day and forget about it after that. If we are going to be 'about' those things, we have to re-affirm that every day!

Joe did, I want to...what about you?

Here's the secret: I believe that God wants to change this world; I believe it IS possible...but it is only going to happen if we renew our faith (and submit ourselves to God, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit). Once that faith is in operation, I believe that the Lord will compel and motivate us to focus on our families, and to reach out and show love in our quality friendships.

With Joe, I heard dozens of people say things like "he never met a stranger--only new friends". He was that kind of guy...and that's why he had the impact he did.

I believe that God wants all followers of Jesus Christ to live that way. Jesus said "A new command I am giving you: Love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples--your love for one another". (John 13:34-35).

What would happen if all of those who are followers of Jesus really decided to commit themselves to living this way--'living beyond themselves', investing themselves in the lives of others, showing love, grace, and forgiveness to all?

I'll tell you one thing...many more people would pay attention to the Lord! Many more people would believe what His Word says! Many more would actually believe that "Christianity" is real!

It's easy to get distracted, to get stressed, and to get focused on ourselves and our own 'issues'.

But I don't want to live that way.

I want to be about "Changing My World" through love--Love of God, Love of family, love of others.

My friend Joe lived this out, and--by the grace of God--so will I.

Want to join us on our quest to 'change this world'?

Let's do it!

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Does Joy REALLY come in the morning? (There Will Come a Day...)

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

There's a lot of pain in this world...a lot of conflict, a lot of difficulty.

There are a lot of things that happen in our lives that don't seem to make sense. Tragedies like earthquakes, tornadoes, accidents...all of which can result in pain which reaches right down to our core.

We find ourselves asking "God, where are you?" "What are you doing?"

We don't understand.

Especially when these tragedies crash down upon a child of God...a person who was full of faith, who lived it right, who followed God's priorities...faith, family, friendships.

We wonder..."Why?"

We're faced with a crisis of faith--do we trust and believe, even though these things don't make sense, or do we reject our faith, because it 'doesn't work'?

It's natural to struggle with that on some level, and God certainly understands our struggle.

...but don't give up your faith!

Tomorrow will come, and then the next day. You will survive your trial, and our Heavenly Father will walk with you through it.

Hold on to Him, and He will pull you through.

Ultimately, there is an answer, but you and I may never know it. There is a Hand that is guiding events, and that 'hand' belongs to our loving heavenly Father. He is in control, and He does love you in the midst of your pain.

...and THAT is how we get to the 'joy' which comes in the morning!

It's by faith!

Faith that there is a bigger picture.
Faith that there is an unseen, loving, wise hand at work.
Faith that the Lord has not forgotten you, and you did not slip through His fingers.

and, Faith that there will come a day when all of this pain is over.
When all of these tears are dried up. When all this hurt is gone.

There WILL come a day when Jesus will come and welcome us all home. We will be reunited for ETERNITY!. On that day, our faith...our willingness to trust in our Father, and have faith...will triumph over all of lives pain.

For now, in the midst of our trials, we hurt. We grieve--but not as those who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

We have hope, because we trust in our God.
He is "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort". (2 Corinthians 1:4).

He will comfort you and bring you through...and that will lead to the "Joy that comes in the morning."

You may not feel it today...but by faith, you will walk in it tomorrow!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End of the World?

Today's blog is different. It's longer, and a bit more serious than others...but it's important! I encourage you to push yourselves away from the comical headlines, and read!

There's a lot of confusion going on about 'the end of the world', etc. I wanted to take a moment to blog about it, and hopefully clear up confusion. I AM NOT AN EXPERT IN THESE THINGS! I've done some reading and some research, but do not consider myself an 'authority'.

My big concern in all this is that, because of this prediction, the entire promise of Jesus' 2nd coming, and the New Heavens and New Earth, etc. are all being disrespected, etc. (A lot like Peter predicted when he wrote, (2 Peter 3:3-10), " 3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare."

Today, Harold Camping, Founder of FamilyLife Radio, has predicted that the Rapture of the church will happen.

This is NOT to be confused with 'the end of the world'.

The Rapture is the event at which (according to some readings of eschatological teaching) the Church--true followers of Christ--will be instantaneously removed from this world.

It comes mainly from 1 Thessalonians 5:15-17: " 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.[a] 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died[b] will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever."

In some understanding of 'the end events', this Rapture preceeds what is called the "Tribulation"--a time of great turmoil and tragedy on the Earth, just before Jesus returns.

Jesus Himself DID say that we could have a pretty good idea about the 'time' or 'season' of these events...but this is a general term, based on circumstances in this world. He did NOT indicate that we could know a date/time, etc.--May 21, 2011 @ 6pm eastern, or any other time.

Jesus' teaching about this is important. Below is the entire chapter of Matthew 24.

1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. 2 But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
3 Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?[a]”

4 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 7 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. 8 But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

9 “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.[b] 10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations[c] will hear it; and then the end will come.

15 “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration[d] standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) 16 “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. 17 A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. 18 A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. 19 How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. 20 And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. 22 In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.

23 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. 25 See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.

26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! 27 For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man[e] comes. 28 Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.[f]

29 “Immediately after the anguish of those days,

the sun will be darkened,
the moon will give no light,
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.[g]

30 And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.[h] 31 And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world[i]—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

32 “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation[j] will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.[k] Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.

40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

45 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 46 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 48 But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ 49 and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 50 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, 51 and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

You will note that Jesus said: "In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. 34 I tell you the truth, this generation[j] will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself.[k] Only the Father knows."

In other words, this teaching from Jesus, combined with some from Daniel, Revelation, and others may lead us to believe that we are in "that generation" which is seeing all "these things" taking place.

If that is true, we should be paying attention! We should be ready! We should be making sure our lives line up with the Word of God; and our relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, is strong; we should be spreading the news about Jesus as the Hope of mankind...because these events COULD take place at any time.

But no one--Not Harold Camping, not me, not even Jesus, the Son of God--knows the exact date and the hour.

This is not something to be trivialized, but taken seriously.

May God guide us and keep us, as we trust in Him!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Oil will NOT run out!

Elijah proclaimed it, and God backed him up...there was no rain, or even dew, for 3 years.

He went, as instructed, to 'hide' by Kirith Brook, and there he drank from the brook and the Ravens came to feed him.

Hardly the successful beginning to his 'career' as God's prophet that we'd expect, but that's what happened (read more about it in a previous post).

...but, after some time (1 Kings 17:7), the brook dried up! After all...there was no rain in the land!

Now what would happen?

"Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” (1 Kings 17:8-9)...again, hardly the headline-grabbing career that we associate with Elijah.

Yet, even in this act--traveling this great distance, obeying the Lord's call, God was preparing Elijah for the great ministry which he would have.

Here's what happened...

"10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

God had sent Elijah to a widow of little means...a destitute woman who was about ready to have her last meal with her little boy, then go off and die!

Yet, God would use her in Elijah's life...and He would use Elijah in her life...

"13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

Elijah was calling her to trust and have faith in "the God of Israel" (she wasn't even Israelite!)

NOTE: He said to her "FIRST make a little bread for me...".

He's not being selfish, he's trying to teach her to live by faith in the God of Israel!

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah."

For the next couple of years, this would be the arrangement. This foreign woman would feed the prophet of the LORD first, then herself and her child...and God miraculously provided a never-ending supply of flour and oil!

Often, God calls US to live by faith...and faith cannot be exercised after the fact! Faith must come first...we give (or serve, or step out, or speak up--or whatever else the Lord is calling on us to do), and God comes through, increasing and encouraging our faith!

God was teaching both Elijah and the widow to depend on Him, and to live by faith! To step out and believe in the God of Israel, putting obedience to Him first, and depending on Him to come through...

The widow would learn it, her son would learn it, Elijah would learn it...May we all learn that lesson today also!