13 March, 2018

God's Favor... Even in Times of Trouble

I am preaching a series on Walking in God's Favor right now at my church (you can find those messages by clicking here) and while the response has been overwhelmingly positive, there have been some critics. I received a message today via our website from someone who called me a false prophet because (as they said) I was denying that "God's people are called to suffer." I'll beg to differ that we are "called" to suffer because that would seem to indicate that suffering is all we would do. However, we will and do suffer for his Name's sake. If this person paid any attention to what I preached in week 3 of this series, the entire message was about Joseph's suffering at the hands of his brothers, being sold as a slave, falsely accused and imprisoned; but through it all, the Word stresses that God was with Joseph and his favor was upon him. The point is, we (followers of Christ) can and will suffer, but in the midst of our suffering, God is there and he is making a way for us. But nowhere in the Bible do I read that all we are supposed to do is suffer and walk around looking like a sadsack.  God's blessing and favor follow us where ever we go!

28 February, 2018

It's Funny How Life Changes

Most of those who really know me know that in my younger days, I spent the majority of my time hopped up on pills or pot or Southern Comfort... usually all of them at the same time. As a matter of fact, I can remember a particular time when I decided to prove to myself that I really could "quit anytime I wanted" (as I often told people who voiced concerns about my being addicted) so I decided to not drink or use any drugs for 2 weeks. I made a bet that I could make it with a guy who worked in the steel mill with me.  The deal was that beginning on Friday, there would be no "chemical assistance" until two weeks later on Friday. I made it "fairly well" through Friday, but by Saturday, I was coming unglued. I could not even focus my thoughts and an attempt to hold down a conversation with one of my relatives Saturday night pushed me over the edge as I could not gather my thoughts and my temper was explosive. I remember literally running from their house and jumping in my car and going to the nearest bar to get hammered. From that point on, I knew that staying sober was just not an option for me. Life continued like that for a few more years before I surrendered my life to Christ and sobriety became a way of life.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I've had back spasms pretty much nonstop for a couple of weeks, and I finally gave up and called my doctor and he ordered me a prescription for muscle relaxers. I know that many would question why I'd suffer for more than two weeks before calling my doctor to get some relief. The things is, I now HATE any semblance of being "out of control" and cannot stand to use medications for pain and/or muscle spasms because I sense that I am not fully in control of my mind or my body. The same body that used to crave and depend on that "escape" now cannot cope with it. I had to use those muscle relaxers yesterday and today, while my back is a lot better, the rest of me is completely out of sync. I feel weak and like my head is foggy. I find myself sitting here wondering just how in the world did I function in life feeling like this for all of those years. What in the world was I thinking? I'm so glad that I've been set free from that way of life. 

09 February, 2018

Where Does It All End?

I'm sure by now you've heard of the Tide Pod Challenge. You know, that where young people, trying to gain the approval of their peers and get a few minutes of fame have made videos of themselves eating packets of laundry detergent. I mean, how brain-damaged does anyone have to be to eat a packet of condensed soap? So now lawmakers are blaming Proctor and Gamble for making their product look so appealing. They state, "They look like candy. They look like toys."  Timeout... if you are 16-20 years old and you cannot tell the difference between candy and a packet of laundry soap... well, then there just isn't much hope for you anyway. But typical of left-leaning politics, they think they have to tell us how to think and tell us how to act and produce products, so they have proposed legislation to force Tide to make their product less appealing. 
(Here's a short clip to show you what I mean)

So, I ask, "where does it all end?"  If you just want to continue with the dumbing down of Americans, then you have to assume that they are too stupid to realize that the stuff coming out of that can of shaving cream is not whipped cream. Better ban that. Those little scented wax cubes that smell like pie or candy... Oh my god, better ban those. Hey, that plastic fruit looks appetizing... better ban those fast! And that shampoo smells so sweet... better ban that before your mindless teenager decides to drink it. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. This is getting ridiculous! Where does personal responsibility come into play? (And a little common sense too!)  When do we start saying to parents, "TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO BEHAVE AND ACT AND THINK!"  This lack of parenting and holding people personally responsible for their actions is what has lead to the disintegration of our society where people think they can do and say whatever they desire and believe they cannot be held accountable for their actions. That's why the snot-nosed 18 year old on a train refuses to comply with a police officer, resists arrest and the masses of people actually support her childish, anti-social behavior. Personally, I think it is time that parents start breaking out the belt again and warming the backside of children throwing their temper tantrums. I believe a child who is unruly at school should be dealt with accordingly and if they cannot comply, then send them home until the parents can teach them how to behave civilly.  It's time for a revival of personal accountability to arise in this Nation... but I fear it may already be too late. 

08 February, 2018

It's A Different World

Pastoring today is very different than it was when I began in the ministry in the early 1980's. I can recall numerous times where people came to me back in those days and would ask me (in one form or another of these words) to help them because their lives were falling apart and they were desperate. Many times people would say that they knew that I was once where they were and that I'd climbed out of the trap and they wanted me to show them the way.  Today, people (especially younger folks) come to me and they want me to help them BUT they DO NOT want me to tell them that what they are doing is wrong. It happens all the time. Someone comes to me asking for help and it is not very long before they are angry at me because I am "judging" them. They get mad because I tell them they need to change something and they respond, "There it is! There's the judgment I've been waiting for!" 
You come to me and tell me you need help because "it's not working." Your life is falling apart at the seams. You want what you see in me... but I'm not supposed to tell you that you need to change? That's insanity! That's like coming to a hitting coach and asking him to help you improve your hitting, but then getting mad when he tells you that you need to change your swing. That's just crazy!  

Let's bring this back into ministry or our Christian walk. People look at me and they see a guy whose life was ravaged by sin, controlled by all sorts of worldly "pleasures" (how pleasurable is drug addiction) and depression and suicide attempts and all sorts of other things. They see that I have somehow escaped all that and that my life is filled with joy, I have a wonderful marriage, I'm no longer suicidal and I've been drug and alcohol-free for more than 36 years and they want me to help them... BUT, I cannot tell them they are doing some things wrong! They don't want to hear that the answer is in admitting that my life was a train wreck and that I was bound by SIN, not the tools of sin, and that it was only in surrendering to Christ my entire life that I was born again and given a new nature. No, people today don't want to surrender all... just some. Just enough until life gets a little better. They really are not interested in Jesus as Master, only Jesus as a pain easer. They are looking for a way to remain in their sinful lifestyle but keep a "jar" of the healing balm in the cupboard for times that it gets too painful to manage. The sad thing is, that this IS the "gospel" that is being preached in many churches today. And many will die and face the true judgment completely unprepared. This is the very people that Jesus was referring to when he said, "21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

11 January, 2018

Changing Your "Want To's"

Someone texted me and asked me where I got this "want to" idea.
To be honest, it came from a song. When I first gave my heart to the Lord back in 1981, I stumbled upon a cassette tape by a young singer named Kelly Willard, singing a song she had written called, "Willing Heart."  From that song, I began praying, "Lord, change my want to's." He did... and is, and it formed a daily pattern in my prayer life.

09 January, 2018

You've Got to Want It

Of late, I’ve found myself quite perplexed at times because I’ve had a couple of different people come to me looking for help and guidance in their lives, and they say they like what I’m saying, they know that what I’m saying is right… but they don’t follow that advice. The truly sad thing is that the “advice” I’ve given them is to return to Christ and surrender their lives completely. So… they hear, they know that the answer is in turning their lives fully over to Christ… but they reject that and try to find another way. I have felt like screaming at the top of my lungs at them and asking them just what they wanted me, or anyone else to do for them. They keep saying they need someone to help… that they cannot do this alone… and the answer is staring them right in the face and they appear to be saying, “There has to be another way.”  I was wrestling with this late last night, unable to sleep over my concern for these two people, and the Holy Spirit directed me to the following Scripture and told me that this is nothing new; that people have been playing the same foolish game for a long, long time.

This is what the Almighty Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
You can be saved by returning to me.
You can have rest.
You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting me.
But you don’t want that.
Isaiah 30:15 (God’s Word Translation)

For the two people that I’m referring to, as well as to anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation where you feel like you are sinking and cannot go on, I implore you, listen, not just to Pastor D this time, but to what the Word of God says to you! The answer is right before you. The rest, the strength and peace of mind you are searching for is standing at the door of your heart knocking… but you and you alone must open the door and let him in. You’ve got to want it HIS way, not yours. Until then, life will continue to spiral out of control.

I love you guys and I pray you make the right decision before you crash.  

04 January, 2018

Who's Serving Who?

I know that I am getting older, but I’m not that old. Yet it seems to me that since I first began my pastoral ministry in 1986, things have certainly changed within the Body of Christ. Even more so since I was a child growing up in the church in the sixties and seventies. Growing up, it was about serving the Lord. It was about abandoning our way of life and giving ourselves completely to the will and service of God. It was about denying ourselves, picking up our own cross and following Christ. Today… the only cross for many is worn around their neck as a showpiece. There is no denial of self or sacrifice. Slick hucksters have sold a gospel of wealth and prosperity and few seem to notice that the only ones getting wealthy are the ones selling that message. 

What has happened is that gullible people have bought into a gospel which does not require change or sacrifice. In this gospel, they are not the followers. Instead, they have made Jesus out to be the follower of them. It’s like Jesus shadows their steps, waiting to be summoned like a genie in a lamp to grant their wish or get them out of a mess they have created in their selfish way of living. It used to be that “believers” followed Jesus saying, “What can I do for you today, Master.” It used to be that we followed the Biblical pattern where Jesus called out to Peter, Andrew, James, and John, saying “follow me” and they got up, left everything and followed Jesus. Today’s gospel insinuates that we simply continue doing what we have always done and Jesus follows after us removing every obstacle and pouring out blessings like a fairy god-mother. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that God wants to and does bless His people, but that should not be our motivation in following Christ. Our motivation should be pure love and devotion to the one who ransomed us from Hell and set us free from the curse of sin and death.  

I’m gravely concerned for the church. In the area where I live I have personally witnessed people who have walked away from the church and Christ because they are disillusioned because their “wishes” did not come true. They were never taught to deny themselves or carry their cross and when troubles and trials came, and the magic wand did not swipe them all away, they walked away, blaming God. They never comprehended that the gospel teaches us to: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” They never contemplated the words of Paul where he said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  They may have read the words, but they never applied them. Peter clearly penned these words, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”  That is for me, you and for all believers. Yet these hucksters say that it is a lack of faith or that you need to give more to their ministry so that you might be delivered from your situation.  It’s just not the gospel that is found in the Bible.  Rather than following Christ, deceived men and women are following the glitz and glitter of men and women who are living high on the hog on the gullibility of those who follow. Like the Pied Piper, they are leading millions to their destruction.

As I close this, I am reminded of the words of a song penned by Carman…
I believe in God the Father
Jesus Christ, His only Son
And the blessed Holy Spirit
Distinct, yet three in one
I believe there is forgiveness
For everything we've done
That is why all the more
I will serve Him

I believe the Son of God
Was crucified upon the tree
And laid within a borrowed tomb
Not far from Calvary
I believe He rose up from the dead
Alive for all to see
That is why all the more
I will serve Him

I have made my decision
I have staked my claim
I have drawn a line in the sand
And I'll not be ashamed
With the world behind me
And the cross before
By the grace of God
I will serve the Lord

I believe you must be born again
John 3:16 is true
The old life can be washed away
Everything made new
I believe the love of God
Can somehow find its way to you
That is why all the more

I will serve Him

01 January, 2018

Looking for a New Start?

New Years Day 2018... and Facebook is filled with posts of people "starting over" or going to lose weight, stop smoking or any number of other resolutions that people are making as they start a new year. Of course, it happens every year, and most of those people making resolutions lose their resolve within a few days or weeks. I especially want to talk about those resolutions for a "new start" at life. I just want to say to those people, I really appreciate and understand your heart and desire, but there is something lacking to your resolution. If you want a "new start" they what you really need is to be born again. I'm not talking about a resolve to "be better" or "act better" or stop a bad habit. I'm not talking about religion. I'm talking about a radical and powerful transformation that takes place when the spirit man inside of us is quickened to life through the power of the Holy Spirit and the blood of Jesus Christ. All of your good intentions will not bring about the change that you are seeking. That work can only be done by Jesus Christ. And the really great news is that Jesus has already finished that work! All that need be done is for you to accept the gift of salvation that God has offered to you and I through the work Jesus did on the cross of Calvary. It is this simple: In the book of Romans 10:9 the Bible says that "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." That's it! It's as easy as saying, "Jesus, I'm turning my life over to You. From this day forward I'm Yours." If you really want a fresh start in life, why not make that decision today? What better time to turn your life around than today? Why not start the New Year with a brand new life?

18 December, 2017

By request...

I had someone contact me asking me about a piece I wrote some time back and wanting me to repost it. Here it is.

14 NOVEMBER, 2008

Imagine If You Will

Today I was having lunch with my son at a Mexican restaurant in Champaign, and he was noticing some of the pottery that was used to decorate the place. He asked me if I had ever seen any of the black pottery that came from Mexico, and was telling me about how there was a black clay in a region of Mexico and how unique it was. His conversation got me thinking about making pottery. Long ago, in seemingly another lifetime, I originally started out my college career as an Art major, and I used to do some pottery in my art classes, so have used the potters wheel some.
Daniel got me to thinking about the process of making of a pot on the wheel, and the scripture passage in Jeremiah 18 came to mind where God speaks to Jeremiah through the work of the potter. That work on the wheel represents us and the process that we go through in the making and shaping of our lives.
As we drove home from Champaign tonight, I got to thinking about this more. Allow me to share with you some of the thoughts I had.
Imagine, if you will, that the beautiful pot you see above was able to speak to us. I believe the conversation would go something like this:
I wasn't always like this. At one time I was just a cold, dirty, wet lump of clay. One day the potter picked me up and said, "I can do something with this." Then he began to knead me and to pound on me to work out all of the air bubbles. He patiently continued to knead me, pausing now and then to pull out all of the pieces of stone and other impurities in me that would cause me to be marred and to break if they were left behind. Then he threw me onto the wheel and started to put pressure on me and change my shape. It hurt, and I asked him to stop because the pressure at times seemed to be too much to bear, but he said, "'Not yet." Then he began to spin the wheel around and around until I shouted, "Stop, I want to get off." Again he replied, "Not yet." He began to put more pressure on me, stretched and pulled on me and shaped me into the shape of a pot. Just as I thought I could take no more, he stopped and I thought it was over and I could rest. Just then he suddenly took a knife and began to cut at me! Again and again he cut pieces away and then he took other tools and began to scrape away at my surface and it hurt so that I screamed and asked him to stop... but once again he said, "Not yet."
Finally it all stopped and I was left alone to rest, and all seemed well for a few days. But just as I thought it was all over, he picked me up and put me into a hot oven and turned on the heat. I screamed at the top of my lungs, "STOP! Let me out of here! I can't take the heat! I'm suffocating!" But he looked at me with a knowing look and said, "Not yet."
Finally, the heat stopped, but I was left alone in that cold dark oven for what seemed an eternity. One day, the door opened and he took me out of the oven and I thought his work on me was over, but then he started to paint me with some stuff that smelled terrible and made me sting. I could not believe what he did next. He put me back into the oven and cranked up the heat again! I cried and I said, 'I can't stand this, please let me out!' But he said, 'Not yet.'
Finally he took me out of the oven and set me on a shelf where I sat for such a long time that I thought he had forgotten me. Then one day he took me off the shelf and held me up before a mirror. I couldn't believe my eyes. I had become a beautiful vessel, more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. All of a sudden he turned me over and began to scratch at my base and it hurt so bad. I could not imagine what he was doing at the time, but I learned that he put His mark on me so that anyone who saw me would immediately know who my maker was.
You know, there are things that go on in our lives that we don't understand. It hurts at times. We think we cannot take anymore and at times feel all alone. But it is a process that "The Potter" is taking us through. He has purpose, a plan, and when we finally get to the place God wants us to be, you and I will realize that He has been making you into a vessel of honor; one He can use, bless, and use to bless others.
So, allow God to shape you and leave His mark on you!

15 December, 2017

Time to Speak Up and Speak Out

In the times we live in, it seems that if a church is large and has influence, they can do whatever they want and no one seems to hold them accountable. A few days ago Pulpit and Pen exposed the fact that Bethel Church in Redding, CA was including "Christian Tarot" readings in their practice of worship and ministry. Videos were included in their story  http://pulpitandpen.org/2017/12/11/charismatics-now-using-christian-tarot-cards/ which showed one woman trying to sell her reading and another video of Todd White endorsing the readings. Both videos were removed from Youtube within hours of their story going public. I have reached out to Charisma Magazine, which promotes Bethel Church and Pastor Bill Johnson regularly asking them to explain why they are refusing to cover this story and expose this wickedness. They have yet to respond to me. If they do ever respond, I will report that response here. This is a HUGE deception being brought into the Body of Christ and needs to be exposed and confronted. When will leaders of the church respond accordingly? 

04 December, 2017

Remember How Blessed You Are

This morning my wife and I were in Peoria for an important business matter that finished up much faster than we thought it would, so we had time to spend together. We decided to drive over to East Peoria and have breakfast at Steak and Shake on the riverfront. The riverfront is one of my favorite places to hang out. I just have an affinity for water, and I love the view looking back into the city.
So, we are sitting there eating when my wife notices a man come in, who appeared to be homeless. He sat near the back of the restaurant and was bundled up. A few minutes later my wife asked the waitress if she knew if the man was homeless and she said that he was, and that for the past 3 months he has lived there on the riverfront and spends a great deal of time in Steak and Shake. My wife asked the waitress to bring us his check. When she went up to pay for our meals, she also purchased a gift card and asked the waitress to give it to the gentleman anonymously. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, the emotions of it just got to me and I began to weep as I said to my wife that could just as easily been us. It only takes a sudden turn of events and most any of us could find us jobless, homeless and destitute. I realized just how much I take for granted just how blessed we are. We struggle at times and it causes us to get weary, but then I see a vivid reminder right before my eyes that screams at me that I am blessed beyond measure.  I just wanted to share this today to maybe stir someone else to recognize for themselves that they are in fact blessed... and if you are in Christ Jesus, things are only going to get better!

21 November, 2017

"It's All Your Fault!"

Yesterday I received a phone call from someone I had not spoken to in several years. This family used to be very active in the church and ministry but slowly drifted away from the church and I would say, from the Lord. After they had left the church, I frequently received phone calls and emails either asking for my help OR blaming me for the problems in their lives. I was accused of "failing" their family by allowing them to leave the church and things got so ugly that I finally told them that it was best that we parted ways. So… yesterday, out of the blue, many years later, I received a frantic phone call asking me to please come. I dropped my plans for Drive-Thru Prayer and went to see if there was anything I could do. I will not go into details as it is of a personal nature, but the family is facing a crisis of gigantic proportions and desperately need a miracle. When I arrived, I was a little apprehensive about going in because the last time we had spoken, years ago, it was so ugly with each family member trying to lay the weight of their situation on my shoulders. I prayed it would be different now.  It wasn't. 

Within a minute or so of my arriving the blame game started once again. It was all my fault. I did not love them enough to stop them from making the choices they made. Honestly, I was beginning to get a little steamed under the collar when it hit me… every charge they were throwing at me… they were leveling the same charges against God himself. I finally said to them that it was time that they collectively pull on their "big boy pants" and take ownership over the choices they had made and that not only could I not help them, but neither could God until they stopped pointing their accusing fingers at God and realize that God had absolutely nothing to do with the mess they were in. I told them that God was more than able and willing to help them, but he could do nothing until they confessed their sin (1 John 1:9) then got out of the way and allowed God to do what only he could do. 

Sadly, they were still mad and leveling accusations as I walked out of the door. I pray that God can somehow get through to them. He is their only hope.  Countless people find themselves in this exact situation. Rather than turn to God and say, "I blew it! Help!" The point their fingers at God and accuse, "It's all your fault!" Accepting ownership over our mess is two-thirds of the battle. God's just waiting to do his part, but he will not do it until we confess our sin.