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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Making The Most Of Today

I don’t know about you, but I know that personally I have a hard time staying in the moment–the “here and now.” After almost three years of unemployment I long for the day when my life will finally get off “hold” and move forward again. I pray almost every morning that this day, this week, this month it will happen, but for the past many, many days, weeks and months it has not happened.

I get discouraged. I get lonely. I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Sometimes I plead with God. Most times I ask why this seems to keep going on endlessly. I do not know why it does not end. No doubt there are folks who might be reading this who feel “stuck” in the same or various similar circumstances (a bad marriage, a horrible job, excruciating financial losses, long term illness, and the list goes on) and wondering the same thing as each day passes and nothing seems to improve.

It’s not that God feels distant to me. No, that’s not it. After these past three years I know that He is very much involved in my life on a daily basis. But as He told Isaiah long ago, He says the same thing to us in Isaiah 55:8-11 (MSG):

8-11“I don’t think the way you think. 
   The way you work isn’t the way I work.” 
         God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth, 
   so the way I work surpasses the way you work, 
   and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies 
   and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, 
   producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth 
   not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do, 
   they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.”

God’s ways are, indeed, way beyond our comprehension. He doesn’t need our counsel when it comes to running the world. Job 38-41 clearly states this fact. What we see and live out in our individual lives is only a tiny microcosm of what is really going on “out there” at any given moment in time.

I am also reminded of what James had to say to us in James 4:13-17 (NASB): 13“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

So, if we believe (and I do) that God is sovereign and has control over everything that takes place in this world (the good and the evil), we must relinquish our control and yield to His will and not our own. Daunting as it may seem, even when we exercise our own will instead of His, He is still in control even over the evil that comes our way (however, do remember that we do have an adversary in this life who is the god of this world; but even he is ultimately under God’s control–and his power was broken forever at the Cross but he still has sway over this world until it ends). From Genesis to Revelation the Bible clearly reveals God’s sovereign control. And, as James reminds us, we are but a vapor that is here only a very short time when one considers eternity.

Also, as James reminds us, there are two kinds of wisdom in this world (James 3:13-18): 13“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” The Message Bible states it like this:

13-16“Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.

 17-18“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”

After almost three years of unemployment, my prayer each and every day includes asking God to give me His wisdom for that day, and help me not to lean on my own wisdom (which I have come to learn over time isn’t wisdom at all). I find myself no longer asking for employment opportunities but rather asking for Him to unfold His will for my life for that day (this day–today) which encompasses much, much more than just finding another job.

So, what then is the best advice for us as we wake each morning to another day (regardless of our circumstances)? James still offers us some of the best advice (James 4:7-10):  7“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Not the most popular advice in Christian circles today, but it’s the only advice that works if we truly want to know and serve God. As James 4:4-6 states in The Message Bible: 4-6“You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that ‘he’s a fiercely jealous lover.’ And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that ‘God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.'”

Humility is not a sought-after trait among the “successful” in our contemporary society; however, with God humility means everything . . . and He gives His grace in full measure to the humble.

And it’s His grace that I need to make the most of this day–today. I’d rather be humble before God, then wise in this world’s eyes.  How about you?

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Small Things Do Matter

After my true confessions as a “stumble through life” Christian in my last blog post (Second Chances), I realize that comparing myself to other Christians who seem more “successful” is unproductive at best. No doubt I am writing to others who might feel the same way I did. In “image conscience” America, outward appearances can mask over actual heart attitudes quite well. Only God knows each person’s heart. I dare say that Christians struggling in third world countries don’t have to deal with the false images of what “real” Christians are supposed to look and act like as we do here in America. Humility is not one of our strong points.

So, what does a “real” Christian look and act like? Jesus often spoke to his disciples about what theirs and our lives should look like if we are truly following Him. What Jesus has to say is, much of the time, in stark contrast to our “culture” of Christianity in America. Let’s look at Matt 7:13-20 (MSG) which is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount–the greatest treatise on how to live as a follower of Jesus Christ:

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.”

The focus of this post is not on false preachers (and there are many), but on how we should act and live as Christians. For starters, we are told not to look for shortcuts to God, because there are none–“but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it” (verse 14 NIV 1984). Charisma and an outwardly showy appearance means nothing to God; it is character that counts. True character will not exploit others’ emotions or pocketbooks. And true faith cannot be bought with money. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (verse 18 NIV 1984). Indeed, we are told that we can recognize real Christians (as well as real preachers) by their fruit (verse 20).

So what does this fruit look like? Galatians 5:22-23 states: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” The Message Bible (MSG) states it like this: “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Phil. 4:8-9 (MSG) what we should meditate on: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things–

true,
noble,
reputable,
authentic,
compelling,
gracious—
the best, not the worst;
the beautiful, not the ugly;
things to praise, not things to curse.

“Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

The way we live and act and behave towards others far outstrips any outward appearance of “looking good” as a Christian. Anybody can dress up and show up for church on Sunday morning and say all the right words, sing all the right praise songs, and say “amen” with the best of them. The Pharisees were all show in their day. But living it out 24/7 is an entirely different matter, and that is the only place where it counts. And the Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start (Matt. 5-7). My suggestion is to take small chunks of it starting today and ask God to show you how to put it into your heart and into your actions and attitudes in your life and the lives of those you come in contact with throughout your day.

In some final instructions to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 5:12-24) the Apostle Paul told them to “Live in peace with each other; . . . warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

Whew . . . that’s a lot to remember! Sometimes I feel the weight of it bearing down on me–the responsibility, but let’s never forget that it is His power in us that accomplishes His will in our lives. Our responsibility it to yield everything to Him and let Him use us as He sees fit. All we have to do is get out of our own way and not seek our own will.

And remember . . . it is the One who calls us who is faithful, and He will do it.

YouTube video: “Endless Song” by Shannon Wexelberg on the CD “Faithful God” (2007)

Photo credit here

Second Chances

“Better late than never” is an idiom to which I totally relate. Jesus even spoke about it in a parable about the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16). In this parable Jesus states that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hired workers throughout the day, from the early morning, to the third hour, the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and even right up until the eleventh hour. In fact, when He still found people out standing around at the eleventh hour, “He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ And they answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He then said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.'” (vs. 6-7).

At the end of the day, the landowner paid all of the workers that were hired throughout the day a denarius (a common silver Roman coin), which was a day’s wages for a common laborer. Of course, the laborers who were hired at the beginning of the day grumbled to the landowner that the laborers who were hired at the end of the day and who had only worked one hour received the same pay as they did after working in the vineyard the entire day. Here’s the exchange (vs. 9-16):

 9 “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

   13 “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

   16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Now, I can certainly understand the grumblings of the laborers who were hired at the beginning of the day–after all, it didn’t seem fair that they worked all day for the same wages as those who were hired at the end of the day. However, I doubt very much that those laborers hired at the end of the day complained at all. I believe they were incredibly grateful to receive not only work (even if only for one hour) but also the generosity of the landowner in paying them an entire day’s wages for it.

Again, let’s remember that Jesus told this parable to let us know something about the kingdom of heaven. When we put it in it’s proper context, the story takes on an entirely new meaning. While we might agree that it didn’t seem fair that the laborers hired at the beginning of the day were paid the same as the laborers hired at the end of the day, this story is not about the issue of fairness or pay. No, it is about something far greater–the generosity of the landowner, and in this case, the Landowner of the kingdom of heaven–God.

I don’t know about you, but I find this parable incredibly encouraging to me personally, and, hopefully, to you, too. As I’ve mentioned previously, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord when I was only ten years old. That’s almost 50 years ago. And I have spent the majority of my life stumbling through it with more prodigal years than I care to count. While I always knew in my heart that Jesus was taking care of me all those years, and some of those years were more dedicated to following after Him then others, for the most part I look back on a whole lot of those years and wonder just what the heck I was doing with my life. It’s not that I didn’t try to follow Him as best I knew how, but the influences of our postmodern culture tangled me up at almost every turn.

I still believe during all of those years I was a follower of Jesus Christ, but the adversary knew me all too well and I let him take great advantage of me in the areas of my greatest weaknesses. And, I felt that for every step I took forward in my faith walk, I ended up taking two steps back. It just seemed like I never got ahead–that I was always stumbling over something. I’d compare myself to more “dedicated” Christians I was around who seemed to do far better at “following Jesus.” They even got “the desires of their heart” (Psalm 37:4), but mine went unfulfilled.

My career in higher education was lackluster, to say the least. The only real joy I ever got from it was the help I was able to give all of the adult students I worked with all of those years. I hated the politics, the backbiting, the game-playing involved in trying to get ahead. I still believed that honesty and ethics mattered–that integrity wasn’t just an antiquated word in the dictionary. I believed in doing the best I could each and every day for any of the employers I worked for–and doing it without complaining. I kept my nose clean and stayed away from all the games as much as possible. The pay was not great, but it kept a roof over my head and my bills paid.

A previous post titled “Don’t Lose Your Soul At The Crossroads” details this account. Suffice it to say at this point (early 2007) I got caught up in a major fringe element in Christianity (the Prosperity Gospel) for a short time–two years–which extended into my time in Houston. That, combined with the 14-year friendship that had displaced God at the center of my life–detailed in the post titled “Zero Tolerance“–set in motion a downhill fall that was devastating to say the least–but it also saved my life.

While my world on the outside fell apart (by losing my job in Houston followed by almost three years now of unemployment), the Landowner of the kingdom of heaven stepped in to rescue me at the eleventh hour. He pulled me out of the mess I had made of my life and gave me a second chance, and I’m living that second chance now.

To the rest of the world my life on the outside may not look a lot different from when I lost my job in April 2009 because I am still unemployed as of this writing; however, what the “Landowner” of my life has done internally to change me cannot even be expressed in words. Let me just say that I do believe in miracles.

Who knows why some people, when they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, take off like a rocket and stay on track while others, like me, stumble through decades trying to figure it all out. As Aslan said to Shasta in “The Chronicles of Narnia” (Book 3–“The Horse and His Boy”), by C.S. Lewis, “Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.” All I can tell you is that I’m incredibly grateful to the Landowner, who accepts laborers into the field at any time, even at the eleventh hour.

There’s work to be done. As Jesus told his disciples in Matt. 9:37-38“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Want to come join me in the harvest? You don’t need a perfect life or a perfect walk or any credentials. You just need a willing heart, and to follow His lead.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” –Jesus (Matt. 11:28-30)

Yes, let’s follow His lead.

Photo credit here

Say What? (As in Postmodernism)

Let’s look at a couple of words. The first word is fickle. Dictionary.com defines fickle as “likely to change, especially due to caprice, irresolution, or instability; casually changeable; not constant or loyal in affections (a fickle lover, for example).” Being fickle is based on emotions, not on facts. I think we all know a few people who fit into that category, and many times (probably more times then we care to admit) we fall into it, too.

Okay, let’s look at another word that has been around since the 1970’s–postmodernism. Wikipedia defines postmodernism as “a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism–the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth.” Therefore, “Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality” (www.pbs.org). In postmodernism, everything is subject to change and, as I like to say, “up for grabs.” Truth or reality “is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality” (www.pbs.org). In other words, “truth” or “reality” depends on how one “feels” and is based on emotions, not facts. It’s fickle and depends entirely on a person’s whims to define their own personal truth or reality. Their motto is “Your perception is your reality” (and if you believe that you might want to read my previous post on Regaining Our Balance which deals with the topic of spiritual warfare). Our adversary has a field day with that line of thought.

The Church in America over the past few decades has acclimated to this way of thinking by ignoring portions of Scripture that they find “unpleasant” (subjects like “sin” and “repentance” and “discipline” and living for Christ instead of for ourselves) and focusing only on those verses that they find uplifting (subjects mostly centered around “God is love”–which He is– but He’s also a God of justice and He hates sin and evil). Building your “house” (e.g. your life) on postmodern influences that have invaded the Church is like building your house on quicksand–it’s forever changing and based on your emotions, not on Biblical truth, and you’ll eventually end up losing your “house” and much, much more.

In the broader culture, much of our world has swallowed “postmodern thought” hook, line, and sinker. It’s a “feel good” philosophy that is rotten at it’s very core. And it doesn’t require any intelligent thought whatsoever to be “postmodern.” But it’s cool, right? Anything goes and you can think and do what you want (even if you end up using other people to get it). Indeed, postmodernism is all about your “whims” dictating your life. But how’s that working for you?

Here’s a little lesson in Reality 101 for you:  We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8): “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Doesn’t exactly go along with postmodern thought, now does it?

I am not implying that everyone in America who called themselves “Christian” has fallen under the “spell” of postmodernism, but it has vastly influenced how we feel about “sin” and “repentance” and has blinded a lot of us to our true calling in Christ. If you believe the Bible, you know that this life is not “about us.” The classic Psalm that most people can quote, Psalm 23, starts with these words: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” If He is, indeed, our Shepherd, then we are His sheep. And sheep don’t tell the Shepherd what to do. And, if the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not “want”–and most of us “want” all the time. No, He’s the Shepherd and we are to follow His lead, not our own by asking Him to bless what we want. No, the verse clearly states, “I (meaning us, folks) shall not want.” If we truly belong to Him, it’s not about our “wants.” He never promised to meet our “wants,” but He has promised to meet our needs. As Phil 4:19 states: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Needs are vastly different from wants.

One more item I want to mention is the difference between “sowing and reaping” and “trials.” The best way I know how to do that is by my own example. In a previous post, “Zero Tolerance,” I mentioned a relationship that I had in my life for 14 years that I thought (or rather I had convinced myself) that God had placed in my life for a specific purpose. What in fact happened is that this particular friendship became an idol to me and I was so emotionally involved that I was blinded about the reality of that friendship until God set in motion some very unpleasant circumstances which lead to this very long time of unemployment (the details are not important; however, the recognition that it was definitely a case of “reaping what I had sown” was clearly obvious to me). And even though the principle of “sowing and reaping” played the opening act in this very long saga of unemployment, I ended the friendship (nine days before I was fired), thoroughly repented of my sin before God, and placed Him back where He belonged which is in first place in my life.

Even though the unemployment continues to this day, it turned from “reaping what I had sown” through repentance to a very long “trial” where I have learned some extraordinarily valuable lessons about the reality of life from God’s perspective. Trials are a part of every Christian’s life, and all through this trial the chief request I have asked of God is to give me His wisdom for living this life from His perspective and to keep me from falling back on my own faulty wisdom. James 1:2-17 are the hallmark verses in the Bible on how to face trials and here are a few of those verses (2-8, NIV 1984): “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

I’ve been reading an excellent book that centers on how postmodernism (e.g. “feelings versus facts”) has influenced our society at all levels and what it has done to our society with regard to our relationships, family, media, government, in the classrooms all over America, and in the Church at large. It’s titled “When The Crosses Are Gone: Restoring Sanity in a World Gone Mad” and is the latest book by Dr. Michael Youssef at LeadingtheWay.org. It opens with this quote from Will Durant: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” It clearly shows how our “feelings versus facts” mentality (thanks to postmodernism) is destroying not only us as individuals but our culture and our whole way of life in America. This book “is a clarion call for America to avoid this slippery slope to destruction” (quote from back cover) and “it offers insight into the issues we are facing in our culture today and solutions on how Christians can change the culture by the power of God and His Holy Spirit” (quote on website). It’s an excellent resource for waking us from the postmodern malaise we’ve been sleeping under.

And, if you’re confused about anything in our postmodern culture, turn to James 1 and ask God for wisdom and He will give it to you generously without finding fault. I like that, and I hope you do, too.

Photo credit here

Regaining Our Balance

Fellow Christian . . . do you believe we are in a war? Have you so acclimated to the surrounding culture that you fit right in while still professing a faith in Jesus Christ? James 4:4-6 makes it very clear you can’t have it both ways: .  .  . If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that ‘he’s a fiercely jealous lover.’ And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble” (MSG).

I think it’s time for a lesson on spiritual warfare, and the Apostle Paul gave us the greatest information out there in Eph. 6:10-18 in a section subtitled in The Message Bible as “A Fight to the Finish,” and indeed it is:

 10-12And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”

The NIV 1984 version states these same verses in a way that most Christians are familiar with:  10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Okay, let’s unpack this information.  First off, we are told that we are in a war with spiritual forces of evil that are so powerful that if we could actually see the warfare going on all around us at any given moment that we’d probably immediately die of heart failure. That is no joke, folks. Our adversary is incredibly stealth in his cunningness and ability to deceive us, and one of his best devices is to lull us to sleep in our apathy and our sin (especially in the comfort of many of our churches where pastors rarely preach on sin or spiritual warfare anymore). And it works every time.

Our adversary’s schemes are innumerable and each one designed for your own specific weaknesses. He knows you better than you know yourself. He’s a master at deception and trickery, and if you aren’t fully awake, he’ll destroy you before you even know what hit you. So how do you wake up? By wearing the full armor of God on a moment-by-moment basis. Let’s take a closer look at the pieces of that armor in Eph. 6:14-18.

(1) The Belt of Truth (vs. 14): Truth comes from the Bible. How often do you read and study the Bible? Not very often? No wonder you fall for the adversary’s schemes. You have no one to blame but yourself.

(2) The Breastplate of Righteousness (vs. 14): Righteousness comes only from God. Do you spend time praying and getting to know God through Jesus Christ on a daily basis? It is His righteousness we wear and not our own. And you can only wear it if you have a vital relationship with Him.

(3) Feet fitted with the Gospel of Peace (vs. 15): Do you bring peace with you into your world, or do you argue with the best of them? Do you take time to learn from the One who gives the only peace there is that passes all understanding, or do you justify your anger at others? Guess who’s at fault.

(3) Here’s the most important piece of the armor–the Shield of Faith (v.16): Does your faith waffle under any kind of pressure that comes your way? If so, you’re a wimp, spiritually. Want to know how to build up your faith? Romans 10:17 has the answer: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Get into the Bible . . . NOW would be a good time, and then do it every single day WITHOUT EXCUSE. Or else you have no one to blame but yourself.

(4) The Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (vs. 17): Are you sure you’re His? It all begins there. If you’re not sure, visit my resource page, Where to Look for Encouragement,” to find out how you can be sure. And then you need to get into the Word of God (the Bible) which is the sword of the Spirit. Do it now. No excuses.

(5) Prays Always, on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests–be alert in prayer (vs. 18). Talk to God like you would talk to a friend–NO FORMALITY NEEDED. Did you hear that? You don’t need to use “religious” or flowery language with empty jargon-filled words that mean nothing to God. Give Him your heart when you pray. Stop being “religious.” The Pharisees were the most religious people out there and their prayers didn’t get off the ground. And Jesus told them so, too. They didn’t listen. Will you?

Do you think I’m being hard on you? You bet I am! This life is no joke, and it’s not about you. If you want to stay blind and acclimate yourself to this culture while sitting in some church every Sunday morning thinking that’s all you have to do you are deceived. And if temptation gets to you every time it’s offered you are a wimp!

I Cor. 10:13 clearly states, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” If you don’t turn to Him in your moments of temptation, you’ll fall every time. He said He would provide a way out so that you can stand up under it, and if you don’t take that stand, you are without excuse!

Tough words? ABSOLUTELY! So, deal with it, folks. Eternity is at stake.

The title for this post comes from a devotion for January 18, 2012 titled “Regaining Our Balance” published by Our Daily Bread.

YouTube video “Stay Strong” by the Newsboys:

Photo credit here

Changing Our World

You don’t have to look very far to see that our world is shaking under tremendous pressures–economic, political, social (human undertakings); famines, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis (acts of nature). Over the years much has been written and sung about changing our world; however, one look around today and it doesn’t appear much has happened to change it in a more positive direction. Of course, we have no control over acts of nature, but we do have more control over human undertakings. Still, it’s a daunting task when surveying the landscape of the world and the human turmoil taking place in so many nations.

While we as individuals cannot change the massive human problems facing our generation around the globe, we can change the world around us in which we live everyday on an individual basis starting with ourselves. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul spoke about how we should live by no longer being conformed to the pattern of this world (e.g. our culture) but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2) and that we should not think of ourselves more highly then we ought, but rather think of ourselves with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given to each of us (verse 3). Also he mentions that our love for each other much be sincere; and that we must hate what is evil and cling to what is good. We should be devoted to one another and honor one another, and that we should be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer and share with others who are in need. Also, we should practice hospitality (Rom. 12:9-13). The Message Bible states those verses ((12:1-3 & 9-13) like this:

 1-2 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. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 3I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

 9-10Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

 11-13Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.”

Our focus should first be on God and then on others. More and more I am convinced that we change the world by how we live as Christians and how we respond to God and to others in any circumstance. The Bible is full of instructions on how to live for God and for others and provides many, many examples of people who lived out this life in Christ and the impact it had on their world then and is still having on our world today.

It has been interesting and quite challenging to live through these past three-plus years since I landed in Houston in late September 2008 to start that job that has ended up leaving me unemployed for all of this time. However, in the midst of some great challenges and major loss (I lost most of my possessions when I moved back to Florida from Houston) not to mention the financial challenges that comes from being unemployed, I can feel the weight of eternity in what I have learned through this time of great trial in my life. I think we get so caught up and busy in our own little piece of the world that we forget the larger world beyond us and that life really goes way beyond us and has an eternal perspective. By losing my job and being forced to look beyond my own circumstances and seek God with all of my heart instead of the little piece of my heart I gave Him when I was working and living in my own little world, my relationship with the Lord has vastly changed and improved and my view of the world has been expanded far beyond what I could have ever imagined. Many of my previous blog posts tell of this adventure, and I can honestly say that while I would never have asked for this particular experience (unemployment and loss) to be a part of my life, I wouldn’t trade the experience for all that I’ve learned about Jesus Christ and how He has transformed my life during this time.

So, how can we change our world? By allowing Jesus Christ to transform our lives through a vital relationship with Him on a daily basis which in turn will change how we respond to people and situations as we come into contact with them on a daily basis. When we become more joyful, more content, more hopeful, more kind, more loving, more accepting of others, helping others in need, steering clear of evil, and loving what is good and right, we can transform the world around and within us. And as Romans 12:18 states–“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”–just think of how doing that one thing would immediately transform our environment. That’s one I really want to learn to put into practice in 2012. Well, peace and love. We can never forget love. As I Cor. 13: 4-7 MSG states:

  “Love never gives up. 
   Love cares more for others than for self. 
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
   Love doesn’t strut, 
   Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
   Doesn’t force itself on others, 
   Isn’t always “me first,” 
   Doesn’t fly off the handle, 
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel, 
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
   Puts up with anything, 
   Trusts God always, 
   Always looks for the best, 
   Never looks back, 
   But keeps going to the end.”

We are bankrupt without love (I know I am). So, for those of you, like me, who grew up in the 60’s (the “peace and love” generation), we’re back to the basics of where we started from; however, the power to give real peace and love to others comes from having a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

And that’s the best way I know how to change our world.

YouTube Video: “Change The World” by Eric Clapton:

Photo credit here

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

If you’ve been alive for very long at all, you’ll remember this song made famous by the Rolling Stones (aka “The Stones”) back in 1969 (YouTube Video below). So, what is it about “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” that we don’t understand? We have taken greed and cleaned it up to look fine and proper and as Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) says in the movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”“Now it seems we’ve made it legal.” And, while this attitude is prolific in our culture and has been for a few decades now, it has also invaded the Church in America because the Church has lost it’s ability to discern, much like the Church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 (you can read it for yourself, and it’s not pretty . . .).

Church, consider this your wake-up call.  Ephesians 5:5 states very clearly, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” So what it is we don’t get? Just for good measure let me include The Message Bible’s version of that same verse, “You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.” The usual variations on idolatry include “the worship of idols, images, or anything which is not God; the worship of false gods.” And we have a legion of “false gods” in America: Materialism, love of money, power, status, sex, self, gluttony, greed for “more, more, more” of just about anything already listed and much, much more. In other words, never being satisfied with what you have and also using people to try to get it. Ring a bell?

Most church goers don’t consider themselves greedy (and indeed, not all church goers are greedy), but let me ask you a few questions to get you thinking. Are you completely happy with what you have or own right now, or do you want more? Are you in credit card debt that you can’t pay off every month when the bill comes due? Are you always looking for a job that will pay you more? Do you feel you have to keep up with the Joneses or live in a certain neighborhood or own a certain car for the sake of status? When was the last time you actually tithed (and with a good attitude, too) 10% of your earnings to your church? Would you betray a fellow Christian if it would put money in your own pocket? (Watch that last one as it goes on all the time disguised in a variety of ways.)

Even the Stones understood in their lyrics that you can’t always get what you want:

“You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you just might find
You get what you need.”

Does it bother you that I quoted the Stones instead of the Bible? The Apostle Paul did say it first: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil 4:11). Even the Stones, who don’t profess to be Christian, understood that you can’t always get what you want, even with their millions. Church folks have a grave tendency of putting God is a box of their own making. God doesn’t fit in any box. He’s the sovereign Creator of the entire universe, folks.

Contentment . . . I haven’t run into too many people lately who are content. Mind you, I’ve been unemployed going on three years now (in April) and I’ve had no income–NONE–since my unemployment benefits ran out last May and yet when I get into conversations with some people (not all) the topic invariably comes to their money problems. Not mine, but theirs. I rarely bring the topic up. Yet I hear about their “unexpected bills” or their constant worrying about “not having enough” and yet they have a job or are collecting social security or a pension (and sometimes both or all three) and yet they are complaining to me about their lack of money–and I’ve had no income since last May and I’m not sure when I will have one again. It’s appalling, really. I’d much rather talk about other things, but they bring up the subject.

Greed is not about what you actually have or own. Most likely there are millionaires who aren’t greedy. Greed is about an insatiable desire to have more no matter where you fall on the socioeconomic scale. Greed is never being content with what you have and striving, in any way possible including using other people, to get more.

If you’re ticked off after reading this far, this post isn’t for you. You’re not looking for a Savior, at least not the One in the Bible. If, on the other hand, you recognize yourself in anything I have said, there is very, very, very good news for you. When Jesus addressed the Church in Laodicea in Rev. 3:14-22, there are two verses that will show you the way out of your greed and discontent– Verses 19-20: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

We live in the most blessed nation this world has ever seen, and yet we complain the most that we never quite have enough. Let me run some stats by you from an article published on January 5, 2012 on CNN.com titled, “What Does It Mean When Americans Make Up Half Of The World’s Richest 1%“:

–When you look at the world’s population as a whole, it only takes $34,000 a year per person – after taxes – to be part of the world’s richest one percent

–60 million people make up the world’s richest one percent. And, according to world bank economist Branko Milanovic, half of them – or 29 million people – lived in the United States as of 2005

–None of the world’s richest 1% live in Africa, China or India – statistically speaking

–People in the world’s true middle live on around $1,200 a year

–The poorest 5% of Americans are richer than two-thirds of the entire world

Does that give you a different perspective on what you really have and what you really need? Let’s all start learning to be content whatever our circumstances (Phil 4:11) like the Apostle Paul. In fact, let me leave you with the passage in context from The Message Bible (Phil 4:10-14 MSG):

“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”

We need to sound a whole lot more like the Apostle Paul. Wouldn’t you agree?

YouTube Video of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones (1969):

Photo credit here

A Quick Update

UPDATE (since note below was written): Hoorah!!! I just got off the phone with my internet service provider and they’ve reduced the cost of my monthly service while still providing the same service so I’m NOT cancelling!!! Great news!!! So be looking for a new blog post soon!

WRITTEN EARLIER THIS MORNING: I’ve been needing to cut back on expenses and at the moment I have an internet connection that is way too expensive so I’m going to cancel it. I’ll be looking for a cheaper service but in the meantime it’s a little hard to write a blog post without an internet connection. (You think???) Of course, that means I can’t apply for jobs online either, but, hey, after applying for 463 jobs online since April 2009 I don’t think that’s going to matter very much . . . (just a little humor).

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as I scour the landscape for a cheaper connection. And in the meantime, please enjoy one of my very favorite smooth jazz instrumentals titled “Beat Street” by David Benoit (Album “Full Circle”):

Photo credit here

A New Year’s Resolution? No, A Life Decision . . .

I hate making New Year’s resolutions. HATE IT!!! I rarely keep them. That’s why I decided to start losing weight back in October 2011, and I’ve kept at it right on through the Christmas holiday and into the New Year. Twenty two pounds so far (and 37 total since April 2010)!  WOO HOO!!! And no doubt it’s working because I didn’t wait until January 1st to start. Okay, that may not be the reason, but I knew I couldn’t wait until January 1st to start doing something I needed to do right then. And, by starting it right then, I’m 22 lbs (37 lbs total) thinner then I would have been if I had waited until January 1st. WOO HOO (again)!!!

This morning while reading the few short devotionals that I read most mornings, something just jumped off the page that I need to consider working on. I’m just glad it’s January 4th instead of the 1st so maybe I don’t have to call it a “New Year’s Resolution.” It’s not that I haven’t given it a lot of thought before, but in all honesty I’ve had to learn so many lessons over these past three plus years during this very long haul of unemployment that this one particular item I felt would correct itself if and when I finally find a job again.

Unfortunately, “that dog won’t hunt.” This morning I got hit between the eyes with the following passage from Colossians 3:1-11 (MSG):

 1-2So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

 3-4Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

 5-8And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

 9-11Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.”

I still have anger issues. Most everyone in my family has anger issues. In fact, most everyone in the world has anger issues (whether they internalize them or explode in anger). I still deal with feelings of hating my old boss who fired me for his own personal reasons and has left me unemployed for almost three years now. And, my anger now mostly comes from frustration at being unemployed for this long in a truly horrible economy as I just want a life and an income again. And I’m not even picky anymore after applying for 463 jobs since my old boss fired me.

Mostly, I take out my anger in the privacy of my little seasonal rental. I rant on and on just to get the frustration out of me, but I never take it out on actual people. Unfortunately, my older brother and I did get into it a bit one day when I was in Oregon when he came home for lunch and accused me of not doing enough to find a job. He’s a classic Type A personality and I’m somewhere along the line of a Type Z (that certainly does not imply I’m lazy, but he’s just way too “in-my-face” for my liking and doesn’t give me any credit for what I have already done in trying to find employment). He’s also part owner of his own business whereas I have to rely on an employer to hire me in this horrible economy. In our case, opposites do not attract even within our own family. However, I found out that he could fling the profanity at me as quickly as I could fling it back at him. Fortunately, it was the only encounter like that we had during my eleven-day stay at his place in Oregon. For the most part we got along quite well and it was great to see my family that I hadn’t seen in several years.

Before I went to Oregon for Christmas I had a wonderful phone conversation with my niece (my older brother’s daughter) who lives out there, and who is 41, divorced and raising an adorable little son. During the conversation we got on the topic of things that made us angry and we both laughed when we discovered that we both use two very common but profane words when we’re really upset (the “F” word and the “Sh” word).

Profanity has become so commonplace in America that most of the time when I hear it I just let it roll off my back. I don’t like it when others do it and I certainly don’t like it when I do it, yet I am always amazed at how quickly those profane words enter my thoughts or come out of my mouth when someone or something has made me angry. Again, I never actually say them in anger to anyone (though I may think them) and was surprised when they did come out of my mouth when I was defending myself against my brother’s accusations when he was swearing at me.

Ugly . . .

It’s hard not to want to swear back (or actually do it) when someone is swearing at you. The disrespect is appalling. Yet, try to find a movie out of Hollywood that doesn’t use profanity in it’s script as typical conversation fillers. No wonder we have become a society of profane talkers, especially when we get angry.

Still, that’s no excuse for me for using it. I am appalled every time it comes out of my mouth (again, usually when I am alone and upset about something). And, as a Christian, it simply should not be my first reaction, no matter how common the use of profanity has become in our society.

So, I’ve decided to make it a major undertaking (and a matter of daily prayer) to stop using any kind of profanity (even in my thoughts) when I am upset or angry, and I’m not making it a “New Year’s Resolution.” I’m making it a life decision, starting right now, because Jesus Christ calls me to a higher standard of living.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. 
   And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
   and to walk humbly with your God.” 
Micah 6:8 (NIV 1984)

Photo credit here

Putting God Before Our Possessions (including Money)

Whoa . . . now how many of us actually put God before our possessions (including money)? Be honest now. I think of Job every time I think of how we so closely hold on to “our” money and “our” possessions. How many of us could endure what Job endured when he didn’t do anything to cause what happened to him (losing everything–his home, all of his possessions and material wealth, all of his children, his health–EVERYTHING except for his wife and three friends who weren’t exactly helpful).

Truth is . . . we own nothing. Now that’s a hard concept for most people to swallow, but if we are Christian, we know that God owns everything. And if we are Christian, we are the stewards of what He gives to us, whether it is material possessions or money or even talents and skills. Unfortunately, in the current climate in America we tend to forget all about that. We tend to think we own everything we possess including our bank accounts and our talents and our spouses and children and even our health when in a moment’s notice it could all go up in smoke . . . reminding us that we actually own nothing.

I don’t say this to scare anyone. I say it to make all of us think beyond the surface of this life. We are all quite aware that unfortunate and devastating circumstances can happen in a moment’s notice (just ask all of the millions of unemployed people in America who have lost their livelihoods and most likely many, many material possessions including homes and money because of it). Retirement accounts have vanished in the wind; savings have been spent to keep the bills paid; and still the outlook since 2008 is very bleak for many of these millions of Americans to ever find employment again outside of a miracle from God (and God IS still in the miracle-working business). That number includes me.

I lost all of my furniture, over 600 books (I actually think the count was closer to 1000 but I never kept track of the number of books I owned) and a major part of my material possessions in September 2009 when I left Houston to return to Florida after losing my job in Houston in April 2009 (I had to stay there until my apartment lease ran out at the end of September). I also instantly lost a salary of $52,000/yr when I lost that job as well as other benefits the job provided. And, I was forced to live on $275/wk before taxes in unemployment benefits (through Florida) which didn’t begin to cover my rent, car payment, and other necessities of life in Houston on a monthly basis. It was a shock, to say the least, but I remember how incredibly grateful I was to receive that first unemployment check, even as small as it was, because God was faithful to me even in the midst of great despair. What looked like the end of my world as I knew it was really the beginning of the greatest adventure I’ve been on in this life. I just didn’t realize it at the time, but I clearly see it now.

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts there is a scarlet thread the weaves it’s way through all of them, connecting them is a way I never could have done on my own. Much like Aslan, the Great Lion, in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, this scarlet thread is what has held my life together. This scarlet thread, just like Aslan, is Jesus Christ. And I make no apologizes in a world gone mad for clinging to the One I know to be True (and Truth). He has been so incredibly faithful to me over these past three plus years that it makes all the suffering through long-term unemployment and losing most everything “I” owned seem like an incredibly small sacrifice to pay for the privilege of knowing and following after Him. The world may mock, but for those of us who truly know the Savior, it is the world that is losing out. Not even the most spectacular special effects that Hollywood can come up with can begin to compare to a life given over the One who created life in the first place.

I’ve come to learn that I own nothing . . . and He owns everything. I’ve come to learn that any talent I have is a gift from Him. Like the Apostle Paul, I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) that whatever the circumstances of my life may be at any given time I am content because I know that Jesus Christ has already cleared the path ahead before I even get there. The passage I’m referring to is Phil. 4:10-13 (NIV 1984): “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him (Christ) who gives me strength.”

As long as we cling to “our” possessions and “our” money and “our” talents, we miss out on the greatest adventure this life and eternity has to offer. We cannot serve both God and money (and material possessions). Jesus made that clear in His Sermon on the Mount. The Message Bible states Matt. 6:19-24 like this: ” 19-21Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

 22-23“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

 24“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.”

So, let’s stop clinging to all the things we think we own but we don’t. And let’s start trusting God to provide for all of our needs instead of ourselves. After all, it’s always been that way whether we see it or not. And He has a way of clearing our vision on that account if we give up our ownership over those things we never really owned in the first place.

Got it? I think it’s a great way to start a brand new year!!!

The idea for the title for this post came from the January 2nd devotion in “Open Windows” (Winter 2011-12)–Southern Baptist Guide for Personal Devotions (published by LifeWay). That devotion is titled “Put God Before Possessions.”

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