Little Gifts

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My 10-year old son, Isaiah, is your average variety video-game junkie. I claim full responsibility, because I was hooked from the days of the Atari 2600. Ahhh, Donkey Kong…

…where was I? Oh yeah…

Isaiah doesn’t take to reading the bible on his own, so I have to make him pick it up and read alongside me. From time to time, I catch him actually digging the stories and chapters we read. Tonight was one of those little gifts. As we read through Luke 10, my little guy had questions pertaining to his own responsibilities as a believer.

“What happens if I try to tell someone, who doesn’t know me, about Jesus and the bible? They’re not gonna listen to me.”

“That’s not your responsibility, son,” I told him. ” It’s not up to you to fully convince people of the gospel, because that’s a work of the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. Your job is to tell folks about the Lord, and to do your best to live the Christian life in front of people and when you’re alone.”

He thought about this for a moment.

“So, I don’t have to try to get everybody to believe? That just seems too hard.”

“No. Not everyone will listen to what you have to say. But don’t let that keep you from telling them anyway, because God can use you to get to whomever he wants. But just remember that it’s not your responsibility to save anyone. You can’t. That’s God’s responsibility. We’re called to follow him, and spread his gospel.”

I saw it click in his eyes. For one brief moment, he wasn’t thinking about YouTube, Rhett & Link, Creepers or MarioKart. He was thinking on things of the Lord, and he was planning to go to work in school tomorrow; kingdom work.

Tonight, I felt like an accomplished dad.


 

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Faith’s Challenge

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Believing For Greater Things In 2016 is the vision of River Of Life Assembly Of God church (Belleville, Mi.) this year. We are taking to heart, “faith the size of a mustard seed”, and believing that this will be a year of awesome praise reports, phenomenal testimonies and evidences of God’s movement in the lives of individual families, as well as the body of our church. God moves mountains for people, by faith.

We all harbor dreams. Some are small, while others are the size of 747 airplanes. I think the disconnect between witnessing some dreams fulfilled and others deferred lies in the strength of one’s faith. Sure, God won’t answer every prayer we toss up willy-nilly; I get that. But, I also believe that some prayers are just waiting to be answered. God simply wants to know if we will believe, by faith, for their fruition. That’s just my opinion. Dreams are often sideswiped by our perception of reality’s boundaries.

Logic challenges faith. My best friend is one of the smartest guys I know. He’s always been an overachiever, from the time we were 9 years old, right up into our 40s. When Eric sets his mind to a task, it’s done, before the first stroke of his hand. Someone possessing that type of drive would have no problem believing for greater things, right?

Wrong.

Eric, knows the intricate boundaries of reality so well, that his own understanding sometimes limits his ability to focus on God’s omnipotent power. He has a difficult time spiritually proclaiming, “Lord, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it, but I’m believing you can and will do it for me, simply because you love me.” It’s a heart thing, friends. It’s not enough to simply speak the words. You have to believe it in your heart. That’s faith. It challenges the culture and reality as we know it.

Honestly, I think that was God’s intention all along. Most times, faith defies logic. We’ve seen the shows or heard the reports of doctors who have declared statements such as, “I don’t understand how this happened. Medically, it makes no sense. Someone must be watching over you.” I’ll bet that in many of those instances, if we were able to go back and see everything, we would find prayer warriors believing by faith on behalf of the miracle recipient.

Did you just flinch when I said that? I saw you. You know who I’m talking to.

That’s the problem with doubt. It leaves little room for faith to do what it’s meant to do. Did you know that Jesus returned to his own home country, and was unable to perform miracles–except to lay hands on a few sick people–because of their lack of faith? That fascinates me! The bible says, in Mark 6:6 that he marveled because of their unbelief. Jesus Christ marveled at the unbelief of the people! That actually makes me wonder how many times I personally threw away blessings from the LORD, because of my own unbelief due to lack of faith. Think about it for a moment. I really don’t care if you’re a believer or not. For one brief moment, I dare you to force yourself to think about this statement:

“What if I actually believe it can happen, for once?”

You can insert whatever you like for “it” to make it personal. Just do it. Ask the question, and seriously think on it. Two bible verses that help me to constantly put faith into perspective are these:

Psalm 37:4 (ESV)- “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

and

Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)- “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD guides his steps.”

Faith challenges us to ignore our surrounding circumstances and trust God to do what seems impossible. Today, I challenge you to pick one dream; one prayer; one desire; one choice and focus on it, no matter how impossible its obtainability may seem. Then…I dare you to start believing that God can accomplish it for you.

Purified Gold

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1 Peter 1:7 (NLT) – “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

I remember in highschool, my science teacher taught me about the gold-refining process. In very basic terms, it proceeds like this:

  • through a tedious extraction process, mined gold is separated from its natural rock environment, and dissolved using water and chemicals.
  • In its dissolved state, the gold is mixed with chemical flux and placed into a smelter.
  • Inside this furnace, the gold/ flux mixture is heated to 1,600 degrees celsius (that’s 54,080 degrees Fahrenheit)!
  • The internal and surface impurities–called slag– rise to the top of the liquid, while the heavier gold sinks to the bottom of the smelter tank.
  • The slag is poured from the smelter, leaving gold that is 80% pure.
  • The liquid gold is then poured into molds and left to cool for about 4 hours.

There’s your science lesson for the day. Here comes your spiritual lesson.

  • God finds us right where we are; fractured and surrounded by the natural sins of the world, within our personal lives.
  • By saving grace, salvation and water baptism, we show our commitment to the Lord by dying to our former lives, and rising in the newness of Christ.
  • Almost immediately, we encounter trials by fire. This is when the flesh fights back for control over our new lives. The drinker suddenly battles against the need to drink; the adulterer battles against the lustful cravings of companionship; etc.
  • Through overwhelming trials, God is actually burning off detrimental traits. We may lose friends who can’t handle our new way of living. We may lose material stuff. We may lose creature comforts. This is the slag rising to the top of the chemical mixture, to be skimmed off.
  • By constantly bathing in the presence of the Lord (praise & worship, reading, praying, and fellowship), the slag of our old lives is poured out and skimmed off, leaving us in a state of liquid gold ready to be placed into God’s mold. His mold for each of us is unique.
  • The mold then is the task or call on our lives; whatever it is that God has called us to do for His kingdom.

Switching Roads

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Forks in the road go unnoticed. You’re travelling the wide, paved, familiar, well-lit path when suddenly that narrow branch of bumpy dirt road juts out from the trees. Just as quickly as it appears, it’s gone; a faint afterthought on your journey toward the known destination.

That’s the problem with everyday life. We spend so much of our time stuck on the freeway of familiarity, that we blow past the off ramps leading to new adventures. We see the signs but ignore the turns anyway. We’re just too busy, too afraid or too stuck (on auto pilot) to choose the road less travelled.

What if those forks or off ramps actually lead to something better than what we’re used to? As a Christian man, I believe God wants me to enjoy my life. So, if my life becomes stale, mundane, or just downright dull, isn’t it in my best interest to change things up a bit?

If I knew for certain one of those forks in the road would lead to a better life, I wouldn’t hesitate to alter my usual course. But, I don’t know for certain. Because of that fear of the unknown, I tend to stick to what I know; the same boring well travelled stretch of road.

So for once, I’m gonna take one of those rugged detours to see where it leads, because I have faith that God’s got my best interest at heart. I’m pretty bored with the road I’ve travelled consistently for almost 20 years. Time to see what else might be waiting for me, just around the bend. After all, God said in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Sounds like whatever path that narrow road leads to, God’s got my wellbeing under his control.

 

*always*

Real Faith

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God says, “Come this way.”

We say, “Sure; just show me where I’m going.”

God replies, “Just follow me.”

We counter with, “But, where am I going?”

 

Faith doesn’t question God’s instruction. It follows willingly, despite an unseen destination. But, you know us. We have to be able to see where we’re going, otherwise we take issue with the journey. I think that’s why God gave us Hebrews 11:1 which says,

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.”

He was reminding us to trust in him, and not in what we can or cannot see with our own eyes. Even when it looks like everything is falling down around us, God guides our steps. We just have to trust in his divine plan.

His ways are not our ways. What we see as disaster, he often uses as opportunity to show us who he really is. Each time we follow him through the storms of life, we’re exhibiting real faith.

Everyday Struggles

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This morning, I walked into my supervisor’s office fully planning to plead my case for a merit review. In my opinion, I think I deserve a decent raise based on my consistent performance for the past few years. After 30 minutes of conversation, I left his office with the realization that he’s fighting to keep me busy, for the upcoming winter season. The idea of a bump up in pay never entered the conversation. For the first time in my professional life, I’m facing the possibility of temporary unemployment.

The struggles of everyday life are real for us all. I tell you this because I don’t want you to think that I live an extravagant lifestyle, far removed from the average Joe’s daily problems. I am the average Joe. There are times when I seriously have to decide between paying the utility bill and buying groceries, because my check isn’t enough to cover both. I worry. I deal with sleepless nights. I pray angrily. I’m just like you.

Despite my relentless trials, I still praise the Lord and thank him for his blessings. Every time a need surfaced, he was there. Whenever I was backed up against the wall, God never let me fall to my enemies. His blessings may not have been ridiculously abundant, but they were always exactly what I needed.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.”

Tonight, I received a rejection response from a literary agent. It’s one of many. Agents just don’t seem to be interested in my book.

Instead of sulking over the rejection and allowing fear to demoralize me, I’m choosing to thank God for the ease in which my book came about its self-publishing history. I’m thanking him for the blessings yet to come. I’m thanking him for giving me the strength to persevere through the everyday struggles.

*always*

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P.O.V.

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  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
  • The glass is half empty; the glass is half full.
  • This is a setback; this is an opportunity to regroup.
  • I can’t get any lower; I can only go up from here.
  • I quit; now watch me get started.

Point of view (or P.O.V.) is vital for success. The way you view a situation or circumstance tells a great deal about your character. If there are truly two sides to every story, your version will determine your own outcome.

Do you look at your life challenges and see the obstacles standing before you? Can you look beyond those giants? Or…are you the kind of person who faces the giants, and recognizes the opportunities beyond the challenges? Can you see the victory just after the trial?

Long before David was crowned king of Israel, he faced off against a Philistine giant of impossible size and strength. Yet, David never faltered. He saw victory where others, much stronger than he, saw only defeat. David’s P.O.V. was different from that of his countrymen despite looking at the same challenge. Because of his difference in perspective, God gave him a great victory.

We all face giants. How you respond to yours depends on your point of view. Instead of fearing the circumstances, look to God and recognize the victory on the other side of the challenge.

*always*

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