26 January, 2015

Take It For What It's Worth

I've not been feeling well since last Wednesday and today I hit a wall. Just run down and achy. The only reason I mention this is because earlier today I was so wiped out I decided to lay down and take a nap, which I don't do very often. In my sleep, I had a dream that was so real that honestly I was not sure at first if I had dreamed it or if it had happened. It took me a couple of minutes to awaken well enough to realize that it was all a dream. Anyway... this is what I saw.

In the dream, I saw the economy in America picking up. Unemployment numbers were better and prices were coming down. It's hard to describe this, but I knew that there was time lapsing in the dream. At the beginning, there was snow on the ground. Then I saw grass and flowers sprouting. We were at summer time, and I saw a news show talking about the upcoming Independence Day holiday, so I know we were in June. In that same news show, I saw them announce that the Federal Reserve was raising interest rates. I heard a voice say, "Now it begins to crumble."  Again, I was seeing the passage of time by the seasons. At first, things seemed to go along just great, but then I saw like a whirlwind sweep across a map of the United States and bright colors turned black and gray. I saw a news anchor on TV again, reporting with the White House in the background, and the White House was dirty looking and crumbling. The reporter was speaking about the crash of Wall Street and the panic in the streets. He was wearing an overcoat and somehow I knew this was in November.  I heard the reporter say that now that the "financial system came crashing down like a house of cards."  I woke up at that point. 

Some will call me crazy, but that's all right, I've been called that before. But the fact is, I believe this was a warning from God. I believe that we, as a Nation, are teetering on the edge of an all out economic collapse. Don't be deceived by what appears to be good times and go out and put yourself into major debt, because I believe that if something does not drastically change, by years end, we are going to see a major collapse that will shake this Nation to it's foundation.  

23 January, 2015

Enough is Enough

The past few weeks have been really tough. Three weeks ago I was fighting off a stomach virus and just feeling really rough all week. Friday night of that week, actually early Saturday morning I was awakened to find I was having chest pains and had to have my wife take me to the Emergency Room where as a precaution, they took me by ambulance to Peoria where I had an emergency heart cath done. The concern was that since I had previously had a stent placed near the heart several years ago that it could be closing up again. The heart cath results were actually very good, but the recovery time of the procedure itself knocked me for a loop physically. Just as I really began feeling myself again, my wife came down with a severe cold and sinus issue. I tried staying clear of her, but nonetheless, I succumbed to this and have been really under the weather since Wednesday of this week. So, the end result is that outside of just a few days, I've been laid up for almost 3 weeks. I've been able to get out and take care of some business, make some phone calls and such, but especially this week I have stayed clear of people, so as to not pass this illness on to anyone else. By this point, I'm frustrated as I have so many things that need to be done, people I need to see and so on and I've been, for the most part, sitting on the sidelines for the better part of three weeks. 

A couple of nights ago I threw down the gauntlet and said, "That's it devil... enough is enough! I'm not taking this anymore!" Now, you have to know that when you challenge Satan that way, the battle is just beginning. I've actually felt worse the past 2 days, but I refuse to give in. I'm still not going to be silly and pass this mess on to someone else, but I've purposed in my heart to do everything I could do and as I completed each task to remind the devil that he had lost that round. Some would say I'm silly, but I just don't think so. Sometimes you have to stand up and say to the enemy, "you may have landed some good blows in that round, but I'm still in the fight!" I refuse to just lay down and give him even a round. I'm in this fight to win. I may lose a round or two, but I'm determined to win this fight. I've heard the devil saying over and over all week, "you are not going to preach this week." I'm saying, "WATCH ME!" My voice is weak and hoarse right now, but I will proclaim the Word this Sunday. I'm not backing down. I have faith in my God. I know the devil is going to take repeated shots at me, trying to back me down. I expect that. That's why God's Word tells us to "take up the shield of faith" so that we can extinguish the fiery darts from the enemy. Faith is not easy. It is something we must fight and contend for. I'm not stupid. I know that when we are sick, we need to rest, but I also am able to recognize attacks from the enemy when I see them, and this has been an all out assault from the enemy trying to get me to back down. I've declared that 2015 was going to be a great year of victory and turnaround for Harvest Church, and Satan is doing everything he can to get me to back away and take it easy. It's not happening. Enough is enough! I will not give up, back down or even stand still. I'm pushing onward, in Jesus' Name!

20 January, 2015

The Joy of the Lord is Your Strength

I grew up around people that gave me the impression that being a Christian meant being "sticks in the mud." I literally remember a member of our church coming to the table in a steak house where some friends and I were having lunch after church and chewing us up and spitting us out because we were laughing in public on the day that a woman in the church has passed away. First of all, none of us even knew that she had died. But even if we did, does that mean that we could not still be happy and blessed people? The woman who had died was a precious saint of God who had suffered with cancer, and her death, while sad, also should have been a time of celebration because she had made it home. But this woman did not only chide us, she did in in a very loud way, so as to shame us in front of everyone in the restaurant. This is just one of many, many times over the years that the message was given loud and clear that God's people were supposed to be sour, mean spirited and sad looking people. This particular event had a profound impact on my life which scarred me and had a lot to do with my running from God as hard as I could for a lot of years. I wanted no part of a "religion" that meant I had to act like that. I recall coming out of a movie theater one time with my date and having three women from my church waiting by my car and screaming at me and telling me I would burn in hell for going to movies. (Horror of horrors, we had just watched Disney's "The Shaggy D.A.") That kind of stuff was the norm as I was growing up. There were so many that even now, some 35-40 years later I become angry as I recall being shamed and humiliated time after time for having fun and being told I was going to go to Hell. The image that had been formed in me by people telling me Christians did not laugh, did not have fun, did not enjoy life sank in deep and I finally got to the point that I figured I was going to Hell anyway, I might as well stop trying. And I did, turning away from God and running the opposite way as fast and hard as I could. 

For the next many years I ran the opposite way hitting every party, drinking everything I could, using various drugs, hanging in bars and discos almost every night. I'm not saying it was entirely their fault because it was obviously my choice. But I will say that the model of serving Christ that I had witnessed through such people played a huge part in shaping the decisions I made. As I saw it if you wanted to be a Christian, you had to be a miserable, bitter, hateful and judgmental person. I rejected that. Somehow I knew there had to be more. I still kept coming back to the church, but I always went back to that same church with the same influences around me. Ironically, it was not until years later when my life was in ruins and I was in prison that I discovered what I was looking for. The first week of January of 1982 I had an encounter with a man in a hospital room in prison who was a God send. This man saw the rage and hatred in me and as we talked he saw the confusion about God. He issued a challenge to me that totally transformed my life. He dared me to forget everything I had ever heard about God and to open the Bible and read it for myself. But he added that I should pray before I read every day and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus Christ to me as He would have me to see Himself. Over the next two weeks I read that Bible from cover to cover and something happened. I let go of religion and I discovered a relationship with Christ. I found things I'd never heard before and discovered that much of the man made "stuff" I had had pounded into my head over the years was not of God at all. I found out that God had so much more than a dry, lifeless religion to give us, he wanted to give us peace, joy, and love that was not only in us but flowed out of us to others. I discovered that God was not really so much interested in the mask I wore, but He wanted to change me on the inside until those inner changes reflected on the outside. I found that serving God was not meant to be a heavy burden... it was supposed to be freedom. Not freedom to live any way I wanted, but freedom from the curse of sin and freedom to pursue righteousness. I discovered Christ the advocate... not the judge.

To some of you reading this, you are thinking, "Duh?" because you already know this. But I am sure that there are thousands of others out there who have only known the religion of chains, burden and hardship. The religion of being stuffed shirt, stoic shell of a person. To those people... I challenge you with the same challenge that was offered to me. I dare you to forget everything you have ever heard about God, the Bible and the church. Let go of it all and then pick up the Bible for yourself and simply pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus Christ to you. The Bible says of the Holy Spirit that He will lead you into all truth. He will not lead you astray. Are you up to the challenge? I promise you that you will make some amazing discoveries! You will find that there is so much joy in serving Christ, and that "the joy of the Lord is your strength." 

To everyone who may read this, let me make one final statement to you all, young or old, new Christian or "veteran of Christ"...If you're not enjoying Salvation, you're not doing it right!

17 January, 2015

God Wants to Rebuke the Devourer For You

* Disclaimer - The first 3 paragraphs of this is not an original of mine. I had this on a photocopied paper stashed in a folder in my filing cabinet dating back many years, and I really have no idea just where I even got it from now. I'd like to give credit to the author, but I do not know who it is.

There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.
Proverbs 11:24

During the Great Depression, two families shared a house in Pennsylvania. One family occupied the upper floor, and the other family lived on the lower level.. The family which lived downstairs was always inviting people in to share what they had. Whenever there was an opportunity for them to help out, they would do so. No matter how much they gave, they always seemed to have enough. The family on the upper floor, however, scoffed at the way the downstairs family lived. they stored all extras in a locker in the pantry. They gave nothing away, always saving more in case times got worse. It was not until they discovered that rats had gotten into their pantry and destroyed all that they saved that they were sorrowful for what they had done. Interestingly, the rats had not disturbed the downstairs pantry.

Selfishness leads to despair. True joy comes to us not from what we own but from what we are able to give to others. We were put on this earth to serve one another, and when we fail to do so, there is always a price to pay. When we give what we have, God will bless us with more. The blessings will be double because of the joy that giving brings.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. 
A good measure, pressed down,  shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, 
it will be measured to you."

Something many people fail to realize is that it is not JUST the blessing of God that comes in our giving to the church, it is also the protection of God.  In Malachi chapter 3:8-12 says:

 8 “Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
‘In what way have we robbed You?’
In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;
12 “And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,”
Says the Lord of hosts.

Verse 11 is such a key verse. God says that when we are faithful in our giving to the church, that he protects or shields us from "the devourer."  Then in Haggai 1:6 the Word of God paints an incredible picture for us when it says;
“You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”

What God says in Haggai chapter 1 is that the people were so busy taking care of themselves and neglecting the House of God that God had taken His hand off of them, and even though they had plenty of money, it was never enough to meet the need or to bring satisfaction to them.  This is exactly how it is when God is no longer "rebuking the devourer" on our behalf. No matter how much we have, it is never enough. The description of putting your wages into a bag with holes in it speaks clearly to that issue. This is a description of when people just cannot find peace, and they keep buying more, spending more... but nothing satisfies. The more they have, the more miserable they are. Why? Because they are not honoring God. When people find themselves in this condition, they find that one thing after another happens to cause their money to disappear into thin air. The car breaks down, the washing machine quits, unexpected bills come, losses come and it just keeps piling on. Am I saying that God is causing these things to happen to them? Absolutely not. But what HAS happened is that when they started robbing God of the tithe and offering, then the covenant with God was broken and God no longer rebuked the devourer on their behalf, and their money is cursed. Usually when people find themselves in this place, they blame God, or they might actually blame the devil... but the fact of the matter is, the finger of blame needs to be pointed back at themselves. They broke covenant and there is no devil to blame for that. It is entirely their own fault.
So what does one do?
Simple... re-establish that covenant with God. Don't worry about the past... start where you are today. Bring what belongs to God to God and watch His covenant spring into action.

Remember what he says and take him up on it...
"And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the Lord of hosts;
12 “And all nations will call you blessed.",

Let the Church Be the Church!

I don't have a lot of time to write  a lot about this right now but will come back later with my thoughts in more detail. For now, suffice it to say that I am deeply troubled by the message that seems to be going out from the majority of our churches. It seems everywhere I look I am seeing where the message is about being happy, living trouble free lives, being prosperous and blessed and so on. Yes, there are elements of this this we need to teach and preach, but Paul warned us to "rightly divide the word of truth." The point is that there is more... MUCH MORE than what many churches are preaching now days. It seems that many preachers have zeroed in on the part that sells easiest and they are neglecting the foundation of the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is the cross... not only the cross of Jesus, but the cross that we are to pick up and carry. The cross where we die to ourselves and become bond servants to Jesus Christ and His righteousness. You just don't hear that part preached anymore, and I am afraid that many people who call themselves Christians have never been "born again", and Jesus said, "you must be born again."

I'll write more later; but it is high time that the church stop prostituting itself at the altar on convenience and popularity and preach the whole Bible rightly divided. There are millions of souls at stake, and we will be held accountable.

16 January, 2015

You asked: I've Answered

This morning I received an email from a person in town who was writing to me because they had been talking with a former member of my church. I have not heard from this former member in several years. This person left the church where I am pastor under a dubious cloud in that they told me that they loved me, they loved the church and there wanted to make sure that I knew that there was absolutely no problem with me or the church, but that they were leaving because they felt that God was leading them to a new place in their life and they thanked me for all that I, my family and the church had done for them. Just a couple of weeks later, the talk began, how that this person was telling people that I had run them off because I was a dictator, a control freak and any number of other stories and accusations about me. Now this person who wrote to me said that they were "deeply concerned" after hearing the things this person had to say about me and my leadership. The long and short of the entire email was that according to this person I wanted to "run the ship" and often "corrected people" and told them that they were wrong. The writer challenged me with this question: "What makes you think that you are able to judge anyone's actions so that you should correct them? What gives you the right or the authority to do such a thing?"  I am responding to that woman with these words written in my email along with a link to this blog entry:

I am given that right and authority AND RESPONSIBILITY by the Word of God and by the calling on my life as Pastor. Pastor literally means "shepherd."  A shepherd is one who is charged with the care, provision and safety of his flock. It is the shepherd's job to lead the flock to a good supply of safe and clean water and a good supply of fresh food that is not contaminated. It is his job to guard them from the wolves and other predators that would destroy them. It is his responsibility to see that they stay healthy and disease free. It is his job to keep the flock together and not let the wander off and become isolated where they could be lost or attacked. It is the shepherds job to KNOW where the flock is going and lead them there, rather than let the flock wander around aimlessly or stay in one place too long where they will die of starvation. A good shepherd will know his sheep and lead and direct them and even discipline them where necessary so that they grow into healthy, strong sheep that are productive. It is his calling or job. As pastor, this is my calling or job. Some refuse correction. Some reject the healing balm and oil that is applied to diseased areas and would prefer to run off on their own. Such people bounce from church to church and never submit themselves to the leadership or counsel of the shepherd and breed discord, strife and spiritual disease where ever they go and always point an accusing finger at the shepherd and challenge his authority. I suggest you examine the person you are now associating with and ask yourself what is the fruit that their life displays? If there is a broken and fragmented trail that leads from church to church to church over the years and finds fault with every church and pastor, then I suggest that you are looking at a goat, not a sheep. And before you go throwing that "judge not" thing at me, let me leave you with this scripture giving me the responsibility to say what I have just written: "I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teachings you have learned. Keep away from them." (Emphasis mine)  

You asked; I have answered. Be warned!

15 January, 2015

There Is Power In Your Words

Did you know there is power in your words? The Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:21 Amplified Bible: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]."
I really wonder sometimes if people realize that the words coming out of their mouth are shaping or framing their lives.  I wonder if they realize that all the constant complaining, griping and whining about life is actually shaping the world they live in. Just this morning, I was at my doctor's office for a follow up visit after having a heart cath done this past weekend. The heart cath looked so good my cardiologist told me he does not need to see me for a year. The blood work was not "super" but was within the acceptable levels but could be better. My doctor suggested putting me back on statin drugs and some other drug and I told him that I believed I was fine without them. I told him that I was determined to drop 20 pounds this year and increase my exercise and that I'd like to monitor how I do with this. He again pushed for me to go on the drugs, but I told him that 4 years ago they told me I could not survive without those drugs and had me convinced of that and for 2 years I had repeated heart complications. I asked him to go back 2 years ago in my chart and look for a similar conversation and compare my numbers. He did and at that time I was 16 pounds heavier than I am now and my lipid panels were a mess. I told him, that I told him then I was going to change things, beginning in my thoughts and then in my body. Today, all of my reports are better than they have been in 8 years and it began by taking control of my thoughts and life. I said, "Keith, I'm no longer dependent on medication to do what I have been too weak to do for myself."  He looked at me and said, "I believe you. See you in 6 months to monitor how you are doing."  My point is, I had to change my thinking and change what I was saying. I used to believe and say that I'd be on heart medicines for the rest of my life. If I continued saying that, I would. But today, I'm free of those medications and all the risks that go with them.Thank you Jesus!

Now, I had more in mind than just sharing that testimony. I want to say that this applies to all of us, in every area of our lives. The words that come out of our mouths are a reflection of what we believe. We need to take control of them. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life."  Then in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we read, "3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."  These passages tell us how important it is to get our thoughts and words under control. Again, the words that come out of our mouth are framing the world in which we live and operate. Oh yes, we've all met people who take this to the extreme and get just plain silly over it. I once knew a man who would go bananas if I said, "I'm dying of thirst" or "I'm so hungry I could die."  He told me I was speaking death over myself. I know he meant well... but seriously... we can get really overboard with stuff. While he may have been over the top with his thinking, the fact is that most people don't give enough thought to the power of their words. We often open the door to the enemy of our souls by the words we use and we need to reign those in.

Another area that I have been giving a lot of thought to is the "escape clauses" we invoke through our words. I've challenged people to read the Bible more and they will say, "I'll try to do better."  I've invited people to church and they will say, "I'm going to try" or "If nothing comes up."  I'll be honest... as soon as I hear those words I know that 95% of the time that person will not be at church. Their words betray their heart. It is not all that important to them and they have built in their escape clause into their response that was disguised to be a positive response. I have no doubt that somewhere within them they want to come to church; it's just not all that important to them at this juncture of their lives. What they are really saying is "One of these days when I have absolutely nothing to do and I can drag myself out of bed, then I might come." It's not a personal thing for them yet about serving God... it's more about doing me a favor by showing up. When they reach the place that they desperately need God, it will suddenly become important to them. In AA we call that hitting rock bottom and we know that something has to change. It's a different place for all of us, but we have to find that place for ourselves where we know it is not an option... it's a necessary part of our lives to worship God and have a close relationship with Jesus on our own. Until then... we will "try".  I've been doing this pastoring thing a long time and I know the difference. When someone tells me, "I WILL see you Sunday" then I know they are being real. "I'll try" literally means, "I know I need God... but I'm still trying to work this out on my own."  Hopefully they will discover the futility of that approach, but I've learned I cannot change someone's heart. Only God can do that.  My point is, the words coming out of our mouth frame our world. When we say, "I'll try" we leave ourselves room to weasel out while saving face. There is no commitment.  This is true not only of attending church, but in so many areas of our lives. I often tell people "I'll try" when asked to attend things because I know that I cannot make a commitment because things do come up regularly in my life that would make me break my word. For me personally, "I'll try" literally means that I will do my best to be there and I will be there unless something comes up that takes priority. I don't mean if a good TV show comes on. To me, my word means something, so I guard my words and don't make idle promises. People can lose all respect for you over a broken promise. I don't mean to digress, but it really is the same thing... our words mean something. We need to take control over them. 

14 January, 2015

Played Like a Fiddle?

We have probably all heard the phrase, "He played you like a fiddle." I was talking with someone today and I said that, and they were totally bewildered. I said to that person that the Devil was playing them like a fiddle. They did not understand at all. The phrase means "to manipulate a person skillfully." Now days people just say, "you got played" but the root of the meaning is the same. Someone manipulated or controlled you.

The sad truth is that the Devil plays a lot of folks and they are completely unaware that they are being played. There are so many different ways in which the Devil plays folks that it would literally take a book to cover them adequately, but for the purpose of my blog today, I want to talk about one of them. This is probably one of the most shrewd games the Satan plays on folks. His goal is to make the person feel like they no longer need God. Now, the person being played would most likely never even realize that they have come to feel that way, and if you asked them about it, they would deny it. They are unaware... and that's why it's called being played. The devil is a master at this manipulation thing. He does it so slyly that people are clueless.

Here's an example of how he might play someone and get them started down the path to excluding God from their lives:
The Devil will cause something to happen in our lives (or even use an event or happening that naturally occurred) to break us down a bit, even to the point that we panic and call on God. We will call everyone we know and get them to pray. We will call the pastor and the prayer chains and we might even go so far as to go to church a time or two as we feel the need for God. But then as the problem begins to lesson and life straightens out, here comes Satan with his deception and excuses to keep us away from church, away from prayer and from reading the Bible. This is the key element of us being played, for he is teaching us that we don't need God in our everyday lives... we only need him like we need fire insurance. It's nice to know we have an insurance policy, but we stick it away and don't think about it until crisis comes.  So with time, we drift back to the same old same old, forget all about the crisis that once was and God is seldom thought about. 

Over and over in our lives this routine repeats itself, until we get to the place that we treat God like an insurance policy or a fire extinguisher, stuck in a corner some where and forgotten until we need him in crisis. The thing that we don't realize is that the Devil really does not care one bit if you call on God in the time of crisis. What he is concerned about is if you start calling on God and talking with Him when the sun is shining and life is good. He will manipulate you into thinking you are "on good terms" with God because you know where you left Him... but he has you deceived, wandering aimlessly and clueless to the fact that you are lost. He has you right where he wants you... because he has played you like a fiddle. You are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands who call them self "Christian", but they have been played and they have no clue that they are on their way to Hell. I said to someone earlier today, "I can call myself a millionaire, but that does not make me one." Calling yourself a Christian is meaningless, UNLESS you are a follower of Christ. The term "Christian" means "to act like Christ." I can hear the argument already... "Nobody is perfect!" You are right. But that does not exclude us from striving to be like Christ, living a holy (separated/different) life from the world and having the confidence that it is not our righteousness, but Jesus' righteousness that matters. The question is, do you put your trust in Him? Part of the game the Devil runs on people is to get them to thinking, "well, I'm not as bad as 'so and so'."  

The crux of his manipulation is that the more times he runs this game of us calling on God and then withdrawing away from God, the further we pull away each time and we don't even realize what has happened to us. It reminds me of something that happened several years ago while we were on vacation. We were in Florida and were spending the day at the beach. My wife is not the greatest swimmer, so she tends to hang close to the shore. This day, she was on a tube floating and she did not realize that as the tide was moving in, the undertow or back current was carrying her out further from the shore a little bit at a time.  By the time she realized it, she was too far out to try to get herself back in. She tried yelling, but none of us could hear her. Fortunately I turned and saw her being carried out and was able to go out and bring her back in. But this is exactly what happens to people in a spiritual sense. They are lulled into a false sense of security because they are "close" to God, but they don't realize that they are drifting and being pulled further and further away. Some never do realize it and they are eternally lost.

I ask you today to do a real gut level assessment of yourself and your family. Are you secure in Christ, or have you been lulled into a false sense of security as you've drifted so far away that you don't even bother calling on God anymore, except in the case of crisis.  I can't make that decision for you. You have to ask yourself... am I really serving God, or have I been using him as a fire extinguisher? 

12 January, 2015

Known By The Company You Keep

Tonight I made some tough decisions and deleted several people from my Facebook account. Some of these I have been friends with for years and I probably made some folks made, but after a lot of thought and prayer, I did what I felt I had to do. All of those that I deleted were posting things on their Facebook page and thereby showing up on mine that were very crude and sexually explicit. First of all, I don't want to see that stuff, but it is also the fact that others see this stuff and have questioned why I have allowed it. Even if no one else said a word, it bothers me. No one needs to be posting that sort of thing on FB, but especially those who make posts about praising God and then post this sort of stuff. The Bible says that a double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways. It also tells us that we cannot love God and love the things of this world. I'm not perfect and don't pretend that I am, but that does not mean that I should turn a blind eye when I see people mocking God or posting un-godly links and pictures. 

If you are one I deleted, I'm really sorry, but I choose not to see such stuff or have my name drug through the mud because of things appearing on my FB.

08 January, 2015

You've Got to Serve Somebody

Last Sunday while I was preaching I was talking about how that while we say we are "Free" in Christ, that does not mean we are free to do whatever we please.  The fact is that being free in Christ means we are free from the curse of sin which separated us from a holy God. But that freedom from sin does not mean we can run wild and free. Rather it means we are now bond servants to Christ, slave to righteousness. Paul wrote in Romans 6:15-18, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obeywhether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."
Grace does not mean we are free to sin. Rather it sets us free from sin and reinstates us to place of right relationship with God where we now have the right and ability to pursue righteousness... which we could not do when we were slaves to sin. 

Bob Dylan wrote a song... I chose Willie Nelson to sing it... You Gotta Serve Somebody. There is no "freedom" which allows you do live as you please. One way or another, you are serving someone. You get to choose if that someone is the Devil or the Lord.

06 January, 2015

My Mind Won't Shut Down

We are having our first real taste of winter this week with brutal cold and several inches of snow tonight. After spending a couple of hours shoveling snow, I just can't seem to shut my mind down and get to sleep. I've tried for almost 2 hours to go to sleep, but my mind is racing and filled with all kinds of thoughts. I found myself thinking about 4 years ago this April when I had a close call with a 100% blockage in one of the major arteries in my heart. I had just shoveled out more than a foot of snow from our entire driveway and it was a miracle that I did not have a major heart attack at that time. That got me started thinking about the many different times God has watched over me when I should have been dead or at minimum seriously heart and/or crippled.  I won't go into any of the stories, as they are not what is important. What IS important is that God has been faithful and very, very good to me down through the years. Through every trial and time of trouble, He has not only been there to bring me through, but he has brought me through stronger than ever. 

As I have laid here tonight I have thought of so many things God has done for me and my family... so many blessings and absolute miracles. There are so many that it would take me a very long time to write them all out, and the truth is, I've probably forgotten as many blessings as I remember. That thought brings to remembrance and old song that I love. It expresses what really matters. 
Let me share the words with you:

Life goes by, so much is past, 
most things change, but some things last
So many days just slip away, 
mellowing there like yesterday.

My mind forgets a million things, 
places, dates, and names of kings
Only one memory stays new, 
the day I gave my life to You

The things I've done, the things I've seen, 
melt into a life long dream
And I become what I've gone through, 
I am so glad I've been there with You

My mind forgets a million things, 
places, dates, and names of kings
Only one memory stays new, 
the day I gave my life to You

The day will come when I'm so old, 
one more day will be like gold
And all the days I ever knew, 
are measured by my life with You

My mind forgets a million things, 
places, dates, and names of kings

Only one memory stays new, 
the day I gave my life to You

27 December, 2014

I Am A Truly Blessed Man

As I sit here winding down and getting ready to head to bed, my mind is focused on the fact that tomorrow my bride and I will celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. That is really hard for me to wrap my brain around. We were just two crazy kids back in 1985 who fell in love and against the advice of most people, we decided to get married. We had only known each other for 8 weeks when we stood at that altar in Brookport, Illinois and pledged our lives to one another. Crazy for sure, but we both knew that this was it, and that God had put us into each others lives for a purpose. Very few gave us a chance to make it at all, and they were quite vocal about it. But 29 years later, here we are. It has not always been easy. Financially, I look back and wonder how in the world we survived those early years. But with God's help, we did. We are certainly not wealthy, we have our share of debt and like many families wonder just how we are going to make it, but God has blessed us so much and we've learned that there is absolutely nothing that life or hell itself can throw at us that we cannot make it through with the help and strength of our God. I still wonder sometimes why she would choose to marry me. When we got married I was an ex-con who was still on parole and had nothing financially to offer to her. All I had was me... and she took it. I am so glad she did. It's been a wonderful ride. We have two beautiful children who make us prouder than any parent has a right to be. We have  a boat load of wonderful memories to see us through in old age. But most of all, we have each other and our faith in God. And that will see us through. Thanks for 29 wonderful years Libby. I don't deserve you... but I'm glad you are mine.