19 July, 2016

Don't Be Deceived

A lot of people have fallen into the trap of saying, "I love God" and thinking that makes them in good standing with Him. But let's look at it this way: If you told your spouse that you loved them, told everyone else that you loved your spouse, but you never went to see him/her, never spent time with them, but instead offered excuse after excuse why you could not spend time with them, how long do you think it would be before people began to understand that you did not really love your spouse? Do you think your spouse would be fooled? Yet countless people try this same thing with God. The ONLY person being fooled is yourself and you had better wake up. Jesus is coming soon and only those who KNOW him are going to make it to Heaven. Not know about him, but actually, know him. That's just the way it is.

Wait... before you even think about the arguments
1) You can't judge me...
2) God knows my heart...
3) You don't have to go to church to worship God...

1) Let me just say that the Word of God tells us very clearly and plainly how we will know the followers of Jesus. Matthew 7:16 Jesus said, "You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?"
If Jesus said we can know/identify them by... then he clearly is telling us that we can judge if they are or are not followers of Christ. And in John 13:35, Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." It's pretty obvious that he says we will KNOW them, (which implies making a judgment call) AND that if you love God, you will want to spend time with those you love... other followers of Christ.

2) God does know your heart, and he says in His Word that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked..." (Jeremiah 17:9)

3) Again you want to spend time with those you love and who are like minded. Also, Hebrew 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

So, your words mean nothing. Your actions show where you stand.
Time is growing short... VERY short. I don't want any of my friends or family miss Heaven and spend eternity in Hell. Before you come back with "I know I'm OK with God" let me share one more thought with you.
Jesus made it so crystal clear that many will think they were "OK with God" but the fact is they are deceived. How do I know this? In Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"

Please... stop fooling yourself. Surrender your life completely to Jesus NOW, before it is too late. There WILL NOT be a second chance.

18 July, 2016

I'm Learning!

OK, so I’m 57 years old, and I’m still learning life lessons. Recently I’ve begun to notice some things about my behavior. For instance, I recently noticed how that at times, without really even giving any conscious consideration, I will find myself suddenly I’ll let out a big, heavy sigh. Maybe it sounds like a no-brainer to you, but I’ve just finally begun to realize that when I do this, there is something underlying in me that is bugging me. I mean, it might be a beautiful day and all in all, things are going well, but something is still there… laying hold of my subconscious mind… and that “something” is casting a shadow over my entire life. Wherever I go, there it is.… haunting me like yesterday’s garlic pizza. This is how it goes when you allow a negative thought to remain unchecked and not dealt with. As my favorite TV detective would say, “Here’s the thing…”  I’m learning that where the mind goes, the man soon will follow.  I really
My negative thoughts start causing me to feel anxious and unsettled… and soon irritable. So, I am learning that how I am thinking will affect how I feel physically. Can I tell you that this is not a recipe for having a prosperous and fulfilling day?  The Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:24, “pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweetness to the mind and health to the body.” If we want healthy lives, then we can’t allow the thoughts that come into our head to dominate and dictate our life. I often tell my church members that you cannot help what thought comes into your mind… but you have absolute control over what you do with that thought once it comes. That’s why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we should “take every thought captive.  He also wrote what to think about after we’ve caught those thoughts... whatsoever things are pure, just, honest, of good reports, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
So, you ask just what is it I’m learning? I’m learning how to “set my mind.” What I’m discovering is that just like we have to reset our alarm clock when the power goes out, we have to reset our mind. You see, our mind can become unset, or unsettled and disturbed. We all MUST know this and have it settle within us… “God is for us and not against us. It is the enemy of our souls who is against us, but how we settle our mind determines how you settle your day. It may sound overly simple, but what we need do is kick out the uninvited negative thoughts and refocus your thinking on good things!
I share this tonight because I want my readers to be encouraged! The Bible is clear when it says “No weapon formed against you will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). Here’s a key point that we must know and understand. It does not say that weapons will be formed against you… BUT it says those weapons WILL NOT PROSPER.
Go out today knowing that God has spoken healing over you. He speaks peace and prosperity over you Go out and about your day today knowing that if God is for you, who and what can be against you? (Romans 8:31)

12 July, 2016

Where Is Your Hope?

Reading the Bible tonight before calling it a day I was reading in Acts when this verse caught my attention:
The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. Acts 27:20
After reading this verse, I just sat there for a few minutes and thought about how many times over the years I've had people say to me that "all hope was gone." The thing is, the reason that all hope is gone is because people have put their hope in the wrong things. They've put their hope in a job, a doctor, the lottery, a friend, the government… and we could go on and on. But the simple truth is, unless your hope is in Christ, you're going to eventually be disappointed and disillusioned and find yourself uttering those words… "all hope is gone."

It's is a simple reality that life at times brings circumstances and situations our way that can rattle us, discourage us and cause us to want to throw in the towel. Yes, people, no matter how well meaning will often fail you. Circumstances arise that leave us feeling despondent and helpless. But I submit to the reader that it is during those very times of trying, frustration and discouragement that we can come to truly understand the rock solid hope that is found only in Christ. He alone can give us the calm assurance and peace that prevails through the midst of our storms. Many people misunderstand what it means to be a follower of Christ and think that it means life is just a bowl of cherries and problem free. Jesus never said that. What he did say is that we'd never face a problem, a trial or storm alone. He said he would never leave us nor forsake us. So when we walk through our mess… he is there. A friend of mine preached a sermon more than 20 years ago at my church that I've never forgotten. In it he said, "no mess, no miracle!"  To see the miracles of Jesus, we must of necessity walk through situations where those miracles can be unleashed! 

Let me encourage you today, if you're feeling empty, helpless and hopeless today, ask yourself what you've been putting your hope in, and then transfer that hope into the blood stained hands of Christ Jesus!

11 July, 2016

Strange But Sad Day

At times it is difficult to determine when we need to help someone and when to not. I've always tended to error on the side of helping someone who was possibly trying to take advantage of the church because I'd rather be taken advantage of than to leave someone hanging who really needs help. You have to use wisdom, spiritual discernment and experience when it comes to these sort of things. Still, we can make mistakes. Today I had one that was much easier to decide, but it has bothered me. Let me briefly explain.

For those who may not know, along with being a pastor, I also own and operate a small photography business. Well, today I received a call from a woman who asked me if I could do a video for her. I don't do videos, and I told her so, but she began to plead. She sounded a bit "out there" but I took a few minutes to talk with her and she told me that she had called several places and no one would help her. She told me she did not have much money and need this video to make a "Go Fund Me" account to plead for assistance. At this point I was considering going over to help her make the video until she said, "I don't have much time left." I asked her what she meant by that and she explained that "they" were trying to kill her. She said they had been putting chemicals in her house and she was soon going to die if she did not move. I did not say anything for a few seconds as I was trying to process just how to deal with her. She then said that she'd been to the police many times and they would not do anything to the people trying to kill her. I knew better, but I had to ask her if she knew who it was trying to kill her. She was a bit miffed that I'd ask, and told me that it was the people who wanted her dead. (Well, duh. How could I not understand that?) Anyway, she began crying and told me she had to get this video made so that she could raise the money to move. It finally got through to me that she wanted to make a video to put on Youtube and Go Fund Me telling the world that "they" were trying to kill her and that she needed money to disappear.  Decicion made. lol   But still, I felt sorry for her. The story is laughable, but the truth is, this is HER reality. Somehow in her delusion she is convinced that someone is trying to poison her and that they will succeed soon if she does not raise this money. That's just heart breaking. But for the grace of God go I.

07 July, 2016

Stay Alert!

We are in the process of major repairs and renovations to the church building where I am the pastor and today I had a little experience that got me to thinking deeply. The wiring in our building is absolutely atrocious, so while we are doing some of the renovations, I'm also replacing some wiring and running new wiring to some areas. In an old building like this, that is not always an easy task, especially since this building was built in three stages, meaning that getting wiring from one building to the next is often quite a challenge. Today was such a day. I was running three new lines into what will be our new bathroom and then wiring them into the circuit breaker box. Whoever had tightened the screws into the bars for the negative wires and grounds must have lived by the mantra that "tighter is better".  I tried for several minutes and could not get any of the screws loose. Two other men with me gave it a try and they could not budge them either. They were so tight that it was literally stripping out the heads of the screws. By this time, I've been through the ceiling in extreme heat and humidity and now working in a room with no insulation or air conditioning and I was dripping with sweat. I tried one more time to get one of the screws loose and when it busted loose I slipped and the side of my hand came across a live wire. It shocked me pretty good, shooting up my arm and jumped across and bit me on the lip. It was not what I'd call serious, but it stung me pretty well and was a wake-up call to pay better attention to what I was doing and to take the precaution needed. (I should have shut off the power to be working in the box.)  As the day went on, I kept thinking about this and the spiritual parallel that I saw. I was thinking about how many times we get so caught up in the rush and hurry of life and we drop our guard, maybe become a bit careless, even reckless and we end up getting stung. Just a quick word to my readers to remind you to stay aware of your surroundings, alert to lurking dangers and take the precautions. Don't fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, nothing's going to happen if I do this just this one time." It does!

19 June, 2016

Saving Their Lives

This week while in Florida I have observed something that is pretty cool. This is the season where the sea turtles come out of the sea and bury their eggs in the sand. It takes almost 2 months for these eggs to hatch and with all the people on the beach, these eggs would be at great risk. In order to protect them, laws have been created which make it criminal to disturb the eggs. They have passed laws and/or ordinances which makes prohibit fires on the beach during this season and require all lights along the beachfront to be turned off at night and for curtains to be drawn so that the light from homes and hotels do not shine on the beach. The lights confuse the turtles and scares them and can lead to their death. There are crews that go out every morning and mark and tape off places where new eggs have been laid. The use a tape similar to a crime scene. They also measure how far the eggs are from the nearest dune and they record this information so that the eggs could be found if someone removed the tape. There is also a satellite reading of each location which is monitored. At each site, it is recorded on a posted sign the date the eggs were laid so that they can estimate the hatching time.  Every morning, 7 days a week, these crews are up and down the beach protecting the eggs and looking for new ones that were laid the night before. It's quite a process and it's cool to see the length and expense they go to in order to protect the eggs of these giant sea turtles. But a thought hit me this morning as I watched the crew in action marking the newest nesting area and taking their readings. My thought was... "What if we as a society valued human life as important as the life of these sea turtles? What if we went to such lengths and expense to assure that human babies were protected and preserved?
Just thinking out loud. 

18 June, 2016

Called to Be Faithful, Not a Superstar

I was texting with a friend who is also in the ministry who was beating himself black and blue because, as he put it, he "can't keep up with the big dogs." My friend pastors a small church, just as I do. He has been struggling to find a way to grow to the size of another church who he has been trying to emulate and is frustrated because this church has several hundred people attending while his church seems to fluctuate between 30-50 no matter what he does. As we were discussing this I asked him if he'd seen souls saved. He indicated that they have, but that every time they get people saved and on the right path, they leave for the bigger churches in town. I told him that I could relate to this more than he would ever understand if I tried to explain. As I shared with him, not long ago I went online and looked at my monthly reports and discovered that over the 12 years  I've been pastor where I am that there have been more than 260 people saved through my ministry.  That may not be a huge number by another person's standards, but when I began to think on this, I pastor a church in a town with a population of around 800 people on the outskirts of a town of 33,000. The economy in our area has been devasted over the past 15 years with more than 9,000 good paying industrial jobs lost as factories moved and/or closed. Due to that factor alone, we've seen literally dozens of people who were a part of our church forced to relocate to find jobs. Others, just as my friend was saying have left us for the "greener pastures" of churches with big children's church and youth ministries. Yes, that is painful and it will do serious damage to the ego if you allow it to. (Been there, done that and have the T-shirt.)

The point that I made to my friend and that I am making here is that I had to come to terms with just what God has called me to do and be. God called me to preach the gospel, not to grow a large church. That may sound like a cop-out to some; so be it. I don't worry about that any longer. One day not all that long ago I was reading the Bible and I read a passage that I've read hundreds of times and preached messages from many, many times. But on this particular day, it spoke to me on a personal level. The passage is found in Matthew 25... the parable of the talents. For those not familiar, Jesus is telling a parable and says that the kingdom of heaven is like a wealthy man who is traveling to far country and he calls in three servants and distributes "talents" or money to each of them. To one he gave 5 talents, another 2 and another 1talent. When he returned he called them before him to tell what they had done with what they had been given. The man with 5 talents doubled his talents and presented ten talents to his Lord. The man with 2 talents had doubled his and presented 4 talents to his Lord. But the man with 1 talent had lived in fear and buried his talent so as not to lose it. He came and presented the original talent to his Lord and was rebuked soundly. His Lord told him he should have at least deposited it in the bank and earned interest on it, but he had done nothing.  The thing that stood out to me was that the Lord did not praise the guy with 10 talents more than he did the man with 4. From the sound of things, he would have been happy with the last guy if he had just done something with his talent, rather than live in fear.  As I told my friend, God is not going to compare you and I to Billy Graham or Benny Hinn... nor with the church down the road. What he will do is ask us to give an account for what we were given. My friend also pastors in Illinois, a state that is in desperate financial trouble and his town is similar to mine. I reminded him of the things that I knew of his church had done to impact his community. I reminded him of the family they had literally rescued from drug addiction, walked with them through a horriffic two year period and saw them come to know the Lord, become solid believers and an active part of the church, only to see them move out of state for jobs. I told him, you are multiplying your talents! That is ALL God has asked of you. Nowhere did God say that we were to grow mega churches (nothing wrong with those who do!) but he called us to rescue the lost and make disciples.  That's what God expects of us and we should not expect more than the Lord does. 

As I told my friend, YES, I'd like to be the pastor of a large, thriving church... but God has called me to be the pastor of a soul-saving station. I told him about a local pastor in my area who told me about 2 years ago that he was envious of my ministry. I was stunned. His church is FAR larger than mine with great facilities and money to operate is never an issue in his church, so I did not understand his "envy". Then he told me that he has more than 50 people sitting in his church who have told them that they were saved through the efforts of my little church and that the only reason they had left was because they felt they needed to attend a church where there were more opportunities for their children to be involved in programs. He told me that he had not seen more than two dozen people saved in his church during the time he had been pastor there. He admitted to me that he often wondered what Harvest Church would be like if the people stayed there and built a church rather than changing pastures, but that I needed to know that I was doing exactly what God had called me to do. 

To my friend and anyone else who is going through similar a similar struggle, remember this... "God called you to be faithful with what YOU have been given, not with what someone else has."

16 June, 2016

Majesty

Last night I sat here on the balcony watching as a storm grew way out over the ocean. There was flashes of lightning that illuminated the ocean waves below like the flash on a camera. Yet here were I am, I could see the stars dotting the sky. This morning I sat and watched the sunrise as God seemingly painted a masterpiece of brilliant oranges, reds and yellows. Pelicans flew in formation, barely above the surface of the waves. I listened to the beautiful rhythm of the waves crashing in on the shore, and as I took it all in, I heard in my mind these words:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art,
How great Thou art.

There may be some who are foolish enough to say "there is no God" but as I survey the majesty of creation, I see the work of a Master... my God..

08 June, 2016

Worship Questions

A couple of days ago I started the morning off with a thought that began to just consume me. I posted the following on Facebook:
"Sometimes I find myself wondering how our approach to worship would change if we really comprehended that we are there to worship GOD, rather than for ourselves." After posting that, I just could not shake that train of thought and I continued with another post, "My mind has been racing on this all morning, and I find myself wondering how many things in our "worship" service would change, what we do and say. How would even our approach toward preparing at home before we left for church. I don't think people would be so flippant about the church attendance. If we really "got it" that we were going to bow down before the God of all creation, I think we'd be there every time the doors are open. I think we'd prepare ourselves physically and spiritually before we ever left home. I think we'd be there early knowing that the place would be packed and we might not find our favorite seat because if people really understood that "church" was not about us, but about worshipping God Almighty, NO ONE would dare say, "I don't need to go to church today". Our self-centered approach to worship, the "I need a touch from God" approach is so backward and it has created the mindset where people don't "need" church. That's because it's not supposed to be about what WE need, it's supposed to be about stopping what we are doing, humbling ourselves before God Almighty and saying "How great Thou art!" 


A couple of other people commented and my mind kept racing, until I followed up with this last thought: "My mind just won't stop on this thought. It hit me a moment ago that when people "skip church" or when people say "I don't need to go to church" they are actually saying, "I have no need to worship God" which literally means, "God, you are not worth my time today."

It's been two days, and my mind still keeps going back to this train of thought. I had someone accuse me of making those posts because I was trying to guilt others into going to church.  If people would just get over themselves and pay attention! They just are not listening or thinking this through. Going to "church" (as we call it) is not about us. It's not about impressing someone with our presence or how much we give or what we do. It is about acknowledging who God is. It is about truly recognizing that the is the God of all creation; the first and the last, the Almighty... and that we gather to worship Him. It should be that we go to give him honor, glory and praise, not to see what we can get. As I said, when we say we are "too busy" to attend church, what we are actually saying is that we are too busy to acknowledge God and obey His commands. If we are totally honest, we will be forced to admit that MOST of what we do in "church" is more for us than it is for God. Jesus said in His Word that if He is lifted up He will draw all men unto Him. But we spend more time singing songs to make us feel better, demanding sermons that make us feel good about ourselves and so on. I wonder... how would things change if we reversed this and truly worshipped God?

27 May, 2016

Who Do You Represent?

One thing that has become a source of frustration and concern to me is how that so many who are members of the Body of Christ seem to be no different from those in the world, other than they happen to go to church. People say what they want no matter how crude or even vulgar the language may be. Some continue to hang out in the same places, doing the same things as they did before they were born again. (Which honestly, causes me to wonder if they are indeed, born again.) With the advent of My Space and then Facebook, things that were once "hidden" from view are now published openly and quite frankly, as a  Pastor, I find myself wondering if I am absolutely failing, because I see things that just blow my mind as people post pictures of their drinking binges, videos that show themselves living lives that in no way reflect Jesus Christ. Recently, a member told me that I needed to "lighten up", that I was old fashioned and worried too much because people were jsut having fun.  Well, I can't "lighten up." I have read that part in the Bible that says that we have become dead to sin. I read where the old has passed away and all things have become new. I read where John writes, that if we love the world (or the things of the world) "then the love for the Father is not in them."  Seems to me the Bible is pretty clear that our lives are to mirror the life of Christ... that's why they called the early church "Christians"... because they were Christ-like. And I recall a verse that says  “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17) We are not called to "have fun" as it was put. We are called to represent the one who gave his life for us.

I leave you with on question this morning: Who are you representing?

25 May, 2016

What Happened to America?

I was talking with someone on the phone just a few days ago and the conversation turned to the moral decadence of America as a whole. My friend asked me, "What happened to the nation we grew up in?" I told him about a conversation that I remember having at a cookout with several of the people from my church in the fall of 1992. One of the men from my church asked me why I would not vote for Bill Clinton (mind you, that up to this point in my life I had almost always voted as a Democrat). I told him that I had been looking into this man and everything I saw about him was corrupt, immoral and that his character was at best "shady". I told him then, in September of 1992 that if Clinton was elected it would begin a downward spiral of the moral fabric of this nation and that he would bring about such a shift in our nation's moral fiber that it would bring disgrace to the White House. I will NEVER forget that man's response to me. He said, and I quote, "If a man puts a dollar in my wallet and food on my table, I don't care what he does with his personal life." 

I would love to look that man in the eye today and ask him what he thinks about his statement today. I'm not trying to blame it all on Bill Clinton... far from it. I'm laying the fault at the feet of people who put selfish gain above moral fiber.

That my friends is what happened to this once great Nation. The self-indulgent, self-absorbed people of this Nation sold out and forfeited God's blessing for a buck. 
Unless America as a Nation heeds the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" then America is doomed. This Nation cannot stand much longer headed in the direction it is going.

11 May, 2016

Just a Few Minutes Can Make a Real Difference

Yesterday I needed to drive over to Bloomington to meet with someone, so I decided to just leave early and take my wife to work, then drive her car over to Bloomington and then come back and wait for her to get off. I figured it would save on gas, even if I had to find a way to kill a couple of hours. I took my iPad with me so that I could work on my Wednesday night study for church. After I dropped off Libby, I drove over to McDonalds and have breakfast and work on my study before heading on to Bloomington. I ordered a breakfast burrito meal and sat down to eat and had just opened up my notes when I saw an elderly gentleman sitting by himself drinking a cup of coffee. I said good morning to him and we exchanged a few comments and I turned my focus back to my notes. But something about this guy was pulling on me. I asked him if by any chance he'd like my hashbrowns. He said no, and I told him that I really did not want them and I hated throwing food away. I started to look for someone else to give them too and he stopped me and said, "if you are going to toss them, I'll eat them."  He told me that he was not homeless or poor, and explained that he'd run a construction business for years and he lived a comfortable life now that he'd retired and he had given the business to his son. I asked him what type of construction business and his face lit up. He asked me to join him so I moved my things over to his table and we sat and he told me about his life and business. 

His name was Antwain, and he was from Louisiana but had moved here back in the 1960's for work and had stayed. I asked and he told me he was now 88 years old. He told me how his wife had died and he'd met a woman from Kenya 10 years ago and remarried. She came in a little while later, but we were so engrossed in conversation that she got up and went to another table to talk with someone she knew. Antwain was so excited as he was telling me about his life and business and his eyes just twinkled as he told his story. After almost an hour I told him that I was going to need to run in just a moment and explained I had an appointment in Bloomington as I was packing up my iPad.  Then he said to me, "You've just made my day today. No, you've made my week. It felt so good having someone to talk to."  Then he commented how that when he was a young man a white man and a black man could not have sat in a public place and enjoyed such conversation. He commented how that it did not seem to matter to me what color his skin was and I said, "you mean to tell me you're black!"  He just cracked up laughing. Before I left, I told him how much I'd enjoyed his company and conversation and I said to him, "Antwain, I've heard you talk about your life and you've had a good and happy life... but I was wondering, do you know Jesus?"  He said, "I used to, but I have not been to church since I was a young man."  I said to him that all of those things he'd shared would not matter one bit once he died, and that what mattered was not his business or homes or trips, but if he knew Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Tears welled up in his eyes and he said, "You know, you are right."  He did not accept Christ with me right there, but he did allow me to pray with him and before I left he called his wife over to the table and told her what we'd just spoken about and he told her that he was going to church with her this Sunday. I pray he keeps that promise.

I've been thinking a lot about this since yesterday morning and I thought about how if I'd been so fixed on the need to study for my Wednesday night lesson (ironically, on personal evangelism) that I'd have missed a golden opportunity. So I share this today to encourage anyone who reads this to release your schedule and open up the possibility of what just might happen if you give someone a few minutes of your time. It just might make a difference in eternity.