23 April, 2015

Week 5 Update

I'm 5 weeks into this fight to change my life, and I have to say that while at times I get very frustrated, when I stop and give pause to realize what is happening, I am so excited! This past week, I lost 1 pound. Honestly, I was very discouraged when I first realized that I had only lost one pound. But then I got to thinking about it and I thought, "Hey dummy... You LOST a pound!" That means one more chunk of fat the size of what you see pictured above is now out of my body! In 5 weeks and 3 days since I began, I've now lost 15.5 pounds. That's MORE than what my goal was to have lost by July. I still have weeks to go before my first target date and I have already exceeded that goal!  Thank you Jesus!  I mean that sincerely. I've been praying and asking the Lord to help me, not just lose weight, but to make some healthy changes in my life. I'm not going to say it is easy. In fact, I'll say it has been a war. My lifestyle and eating habits have been pitiful for a long, long time and making those changes is not coming easy. I'm still struggling. I have bad days. And you had better believe I have to had to fight the voices inside my head crying out for ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate. My addiction to sugar is real, just like it is for the vast majority of the American people. But I'm learning to control IF, when and how much I allow myself to have now. But I'm not declaring victory, because this will be a long battle and I know it.  And even when the weight is where I want it to be, I cannot just go back to what I was. This as to be a life-long change otherwise I will yo-yo right back to where I was. Already, I am feeling so much better. I have less pain in my body and I have more energy. I can't wait to see how much better I feel this time next year when I'm believing and hoping to have my weight down by another 15 pounds.  I really want to thank all those who have been encouraging me and praying for me as I strive to make these changes in my life.

19 April, 2015

Life's Change Agent

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven are not in a hurry to get there. Still death is the one common thing in all of us. We are all going to face it. There is no escaping it. Steve Jobs once said of death, "Death is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” He was right. When we die, it is not the end... rather it is beginning of eternity. The question we all must ask of ourselves is where we will spend eternity. 
Some would like to think death is the final chapter, but no matter what one believes, that does not alter the truth. Not believing in God, nor accepting God does not alter the truth. I hear people say that they do not believe that anyone has the right to control or restrain anyone else, therefore they will live the way they choose and not obey the laws of the land. (anarchy) Let me assure you, when you are arrested and stand before a judge, the defense you offer will not work, and you WILL go to jail. The same is true of every person who has ever lived. One day we will all die and we will stand before God as our judge and the only question will be is "did we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior?" There will be no excuse.

I watched a man on TV last night who calls himself an agnostic. He says he wants to believe there is a God, but he has not been convinced. He rather mockingly raised his face to the sky and said, "If you are there, give me a sign."  He already did. It's all recorded in God's Word and is evident in His handiwork all around you Mr. Stossell. You can ignore it and mock it if you choose, but that will not alter the truth. One day you will stand before God as your judge and claiming, "I wasn't convinced" will not be an excuse. We all must choose whether or not to accept and believe. I truly hope you choose to look beyond yourself arrogance and see the evidence that is all before you. Steve Jobs was right when he said, "Death is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” The thing is, he missed one key thing that changes that statement he made. While he was correct that death is certain and everything changes with death, he totally missed the point that WE get to determine what that change will be. The change agent is NOT death, as Steve Jobs asserted. The change agent is evidenced by a blood stained cross and an empty tomb. Jesus Christ is the only change agent. The only question is, what will you do with Jesus? I pray you choose wisely. 

15 April, 2015

A Quick Update

I don't have much time to write a lot, but wanted to keep myself accountable. This last week was slower, but still I lost 1 pound, which puts my total weight loss at 14.5 pounds in 4 weeks. I'm extremely pleased with this. I was hoping to lose half that the first month. I do realize that it will be much slower going from this point on, but I'm fine with that. My original goal was to lose 15 pound by July 1, so I think I've got that under control and think that losing 20 pounds by July is well within my range. My goal was to lose 25 by the end of the year, but I'm thinking I am going to try for 30 pounds which would put me at the lightest weight I've been in more than 25 years. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and now that I've got some of the weight off, start increasing my physical activity and see where this takes me. 

14 April, 2015

Ignoring the Truth

Someone once said, "We ignored truths for temporary happiness." This would explain the American people over the past several years. The truth was not only easy to see, then Senator Obama while on the campaign trail said repeatedly what he would do to "fundamentally transform America." The problem was that people heard, "first black President."  Others saw, "free stuff."  He clearly said he wanted to crush the coal industry and drive utility prices soaring. He stated with no mincing of words that he wanted to see gasoline prices over $5 per gallon so that people would be forced to drive less. He said he wanted to re-distribute the wealth. We can go on and on, but the point is, the people who voted for him simply ignored the truth and went for the pipe dream. When you ignore truth, you are in trouble; but people blindly followed the Pied Piper, oblivious to what was happening to them and around them. 
The truth was ever before them, they simply chose to ignore that truth.

This leads me to one of the most abused and misquoted verses of scripture. People are constantly saying, "And the truth shall set you free."  Yes, that is a correct quote, but it is a partial quote.  Jesus actually said, "If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." People often quote this verse as if Jesus was saying when you know the truth of a situation, that truth will set you free.  That is not what it says. For example; If a couple is having marital problems and one of them is lying, the knowledge of that lie does not set anyone free. In fact, it compounds the problem. No, I am not saying they should cover up the lie. What I am saying is that simple knowledge of the truth of a situation or circumstances does not necessarily set anyone free. The knowledge that a person has a terminal disease does not bring freedom; does it?  So, just what was Jesus saying? It's very simple, yet profound if you read and apply his words in context. Jesus actually said that the only thing that would set you free is the truth that is found in being "in Christ."  The key is found a few chapters over when in John 17:17 Jesus prays for his followers (that's me and you) and he says to the Father, "Sanctify them by the truth. Your Word is truth."  Bingo!

You want freedom? Freedom from bondage, depression, aggression, anger issues,drug addiction (the list is endless)... the answer is not in wrestling out "the truth" of a situation or circumstance... the answer is found only in THE Truth. Jesus Christ IS the truth.

Jesus said, "and you shall KNOW the truth... and the truth shall set you free."  
The question is... do you KNOW Jesus?
He is "the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6)

10 April, 2015

God Will Not Bless Sin

I was talking with someone yesterday who was very upset because they had found out that a friend had straight up lied to a college teacher to get out of a class. To make matters worse, this person had done so under the guise of needing to miss class in order to do something ministry oriented. The teacher was not so agreeable to letting this person miss the class, but finally relented because the student stressed that people were counting on them to get them to an event sponsored by the church. The person I was speaking with was at first completely on her friends side and felt the college instructor was being too rigid. But then they found out that their friend did not actually need to miss this class at all in order to fulfill their promised ministry, but in fact simply wanted to skip the class and take a nap before doing what they said they were going to do. 

As I listened to this person recount this story to me, there was a holy anger that arose within me. This person used the work of God's Kingdom as an excuse to skip out on their responsibility. There are no two ways about it, they lied. No doubt that later on this person was actually doing the ministry that they said they were going to do, but they used the Kingdom Work as an excuse to to shuck their responsibility and lied in the process.  Do you think there is any way possible that God is going to bless the ministry that this person was involved in when they overtly lied and sinned using that ministry as an excuse?  How does one even dare call themselves a minister when they are doing this sort of thing? God is never going to bless sin. Period. This person may think that they have gotten away with something, and they may have with this class instructor, but the story is out there and your name has been tarnished and far worse, non-believing people who have witnessed these actions who discover what you have done will use this to distance themselves even further from Jesus Christ and His church. Numbers 32:23 says, "you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out." 

08 April, 2015

Checking In

I just realized that I had not given an update on the endeavor to lose the weight I had packed on over the winter. Probably in my subconscious I was too frustrated to report. Two weekends ago we had to go down to visit my daughter for a couple of days and attend a fundraising dinner with her. I pretty well blew the diet that weekend out of necessity. There was very little I could eat on that trip to stay within my bounds. I did not over-indulge, yet I gained 2 pounds back that week. I regrouped and started back on track when we got home and stuck with it for the most part, but then a woman in the church made me a loaf of home made bread... and I gave in and ate about 3 slices of it. (White bread is strictly a no-no on a low-carb diet.) Still, I've lost that 2 pounds I had gained back, plus another 2, so my total loss is now 13.5 pounds lost in 3 weeks. I'll take that. My goal was to lose 15 pounds by July, so I am doing very well. The real problem is changing my thinking. I am constantly wanting chips and salsa or ice cream. It's hard to change 50 years of bad eating habits!

06 April, 2015

Fear is a Funny Thing

I had a really interesting conversation earlier with someone who has not been to the church in years. They told me how much they missed us and the church. I asked where they were going to church and the person told me  they were not going anywhere. I said, "If you are not going to church, and you miss the church, the people and my family, then what's keeping you from coming?"  The person said they were afraid of what people would say if they walked back in after all this time. I stood there for probably 30 seconds just looking at them and finally asked, "Am I missing something?" They said, "What do you mean?"  So I asked if there had been any problem in the church. They said there had not been. I asked if anyone asked them to leave. They no, there had not. So I asked them if since they had left, if anyone had said anything negative to them or about them. They said that they had never heard anything bad from anyone. So I said, "So the only thing keeping you from a place you love and people you love is a fear that somehow someone is going to say or think something bad about you... even though no one has said anything over the last several years? Is that right?"  They stood there looking at me and said, "I guess I've been afraid of nothing, haven't I?" I said, "yes you have" and went on to say that if they walked into the door the only thing anyone is going to say is "Welcome home!"  

Why do we allow unfounded fears to control our lives? I believe it was FDR who once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!"  I'm sincerely hoping to see these folks back in church real soon!

05 April, 2015

Don't Blink

I read a story about an elderly Florida woman who wrote her own obituary. In it she said, "I was born, blinked and it was over." The older I get, the more I understand her words. I was just sitting here on Easter Sunday morning and thinking back and I can remember Easter Sunday, 1992 as if it were yesterday. It was our first Easter as pastors in Bridgeport, IL. I remember every detail of the day. I remember the photograph I took of my 21 month old son that day which is still one of my favorite pictures of him.  Could that really have been twenty three years ago? Then I see my almost 25 year old son and it all becomes clear... time has flown by. I tell young parents all the time, "don't blink because the next thing you know you are dropping them off at college." It really does go by that fast. This woman said it so well.

Did you know the Bible says the same thing? In Job 7:6, Job says, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope." Job was in the midst of his trials and had lost all when he sat and thought about how fast his days had flown by and everything he had valued was gone. He thought he was without hope. But today, Easter Sunday... or Resurrection Sunday tells me that we have hope! Without Jesus, I would have to say like Job, that it is all without meaning or hope, but because of Jesus, I have hope today. I know that even when this life has come to it's close and my mind reflects on how fast it has flown by, life is really just beginning, because though this mortal body may die, my spirit will live forever in glory where Jesus has prepared a place for me! For millions, they might say or think, "my days are spent  without hope," but for me, ever since June of 1981, I have hope. I've trusted the Lord to guide my every step and it's been an incredible journey. But that step that comes when I've breathed my last and I step into eternity is the one that brings me the most hope, for it is eternal. I hope and pray that you have discovered and claimed this hope as your own too, for I want to see you there. If you haven't, don't wait too long... because if you blink, it will be too late.
~ Selah 

03 April, 2015

Is Jesus Enough?

"After they had eaten, Jesus asked Simon Peter, ’Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these other things?’" (John 21:15).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the church. Not the building, but the people of God. I’m not referring to one local congregation, but the Body of Christ at large. I’m not really going to go into all that I’ve been thinking, but I do want to pose a question to the reader. “If Jesus was all you had, would Jesus be enough for you?” Before you answer that, I challenge you to think on it first. I’ve come to the conclusion that many believers are in love with the things of the Lord, but they are not in love with the Lord Himself. I will go so far as to say that many Christian workers and ministers are more in love with the Lord’s work than they are the Lord Himself.  Almost without realizing it, the work of the Lord becomes more important than the Lord of the work. There are countless people who seek a Word from the Lord more than they seek the Lord. Others seek specific teachings and they are driven to obtain more of that teaching, rather than seeking more of the Lord. And then there are those who love the blessings of the Lord and they are seeking "things" - words, prophecies, teachings, visions, dreams - but they are not seeking the Lord Himself.

So, I ask, “Is Jesus enough?”

If we would be totally honest, I’m afraid we would be forced to admit that when the saints gather together most of the activity is focused on "one another". Yes, this is important, but it is not the most important thing.
Fellowship is good: but is Jesus enough?
Gatherings are good: but is Jesus enough?
Meetings are good: but is Jesus enough?
Special speakers and special music are good: but is Jesus enough?
Even when it comes to praise and worship it is possible to sing "about" Jesus and not truly worship Jesus. With preaching and teaching it is possible to talk "about" Jesus and not truly meet Jesus in what is shared.
And I’ve come to realize that even in prayer it is possible to talk "about" our needs and never actually commune with Jesus Himself.

The questions I think we need to ask ourselves is how much of our focus is directed to the things of God and about God, and not to God Himself?
How much of your discussion centers on things about Jesus, and not Jesus Himself?

Just look around and observe the landscape. Over here we have someone who is focused on end-time events, and that sister over there has her focus of ministry devoted to inner healing. Then there is this brother who is primarily concerned with prophetic things, while yet another is keenly interested in spiritual warfare. And on it goes. One ministry emphasizes this particular thing, and another group stands for another thing. Yes, we need to acknowledge that there may be diversities of gifts and callings. There may be various and sundry things to be involved with and many topics to study and discuss. There are many things that compete for our time, attention, affection, energy, and money.

But there is only one Lord Jesus.

Just as some people cannot see the forest for the trees, I believe most sinners cannot see Jesus for the Christians. And I believe most Christians cannot see Jesus for the "church".
I ask you again,  “Is Jesus enough?”

Everyone wants to go and do something for God, but few people are willing to stay and do "nothing" for Him… to just sit at his feet and worship him and pour out their love on him. In the scripture above, Jesus asked Peter, "Am I enough for You? Do you love Me more than everything else? Do you love Me more than you love the things about Me?"  Just a short time later, when Peter stood with John before the religious rulers to explain the healing of a man who had never walked, "...they marveled; and they took knowledge of [Peter and John], that THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS" (Acts 4:13b).

If we will be with Jesus, then Jesus will be with us. The reason the New Testament church had power was not because they spoke in tongues, or held meetings in their living rooms, or had a certain system for planting churches.
The secret was they had been with Jesus.

But some Christians are more in love with methods and ministries than they are in love with the person of Jesus Christ.

Is Jesus enough?

If the blessings ceased today… would you still remain with Christ? Would you pour out your love on Him if there were no more blessings coming your way? If Jesus was all you had, would Jesus be enough for you? Or do you have to have all the "trappings" of Christianity, all the bells and whistles, all the toys and trinkets?

For way too many people, somewhere along the line, something else became more important than Jesus.  Maybe you have become focused on the things ABOUT Jesus that are NOT Jesus. There is only one solution. You do not need more of the Lord, because He has already given Himself completely to you already.  You just need less of everything else.

Remember what it was like when you first got saved? Remember when you where content to just be with Jesus. Go back to when Jesus first called you to be with Him. Go back to the time when all you had was Him. Go back to the time when there was no work, no ministry, no vision, no special calling - except Jesus calling you to be with Him. Remember when you said, "He’s all I need!"

So what happened?

I pray the Lord will draw us after Himself and make us thoroughly sick and tired of things  especially the things that are ABOUT Him, but are NOT Him.
God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, Jesus.

Well... is Jesus enough?

26 March, 2015

This One Absolutely Takes the Cake

I've been in ministry for a long time now, pastoring my first church in 1986; but the phone call I received  today is at the absolute top of my list as craziest phone calls I've ever received as a pastor. This person called me and wanted to know some about the church as they told me they were looking for a new church. Then this guy asked what I "expected of attenders." I asked him to clarify his question a bit. He proceeded to tell me that he was not looking for a church that expected him to do anything. Again, I asked him to clarify. He went on to tell me that he did not want a church that expects him or his family to help with the work of the church, or one that expected them to give their time or money to the church. So I asked him just what he thought the church should expect or what the church should be. I kid you not, the man said, "If we need the pastor, we expect you to be there. If we need help with our bills, the church should be ready to minister to those needs. If someone is in the hospital, day or night, we expect you to be there. And we don't believe in churches that keep record of attendance or bothers us if we are not there for a few weeks.  I said to him, "Don't you think it is part of the job of a good shepherd to call and make sure everyone is OK if you are gone?"  He snapped back, "Like I said, if we need you, we will call. Otherwise butt out of our lives."  
There was more to the conversation, but I'm sure you get the drift of how it went. After about 20 minutes on the phone he said, "you're not sounding like you are too interested in our becoming a part of your congregation. Don't you care about our souls?"  I replied, "Sir, it's not that I'm not concerned for your souls; In fact, I'm DEEPLY concerned for your soul after this conversation, but let me assure you that I am definitely not interested in becoming your personal slave or your sugar daddy financially. I thank you for your time but suggest you keep looking... not for a church, but for a Savior. If you are ever interested in that, then I welcome you to come to Harvest Church."

He said, "Just as I thought, another money hungry preacher who does not care about anyone but himself!"  With that he hung up.

I sat here for about half an hour asking myself if that conversation really took place. I'm hoping it was someone playing a gag... but I don't think so. 

24 March, 2015

So, How's That Sequester Working Out?

You may recall that following the elections in 2010 where the Tea Party had a sweeping affect on the elections, in 2011 the GOP forced mandatory budget cuts on President Obama and the Democrats called the sequester. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and even Obama himself was screaming at the top of their lungs that the GOP was going to cripple America. So... here we are in 2015 and the question is, "How's that Sequester working out?"  Let's look and see.

Prior to the 2010 elections and the Sequester that followed shortly thereafter, the nations budget deficit was over $1.4 Trillion, which was just over 10% of our nations Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sequester has been applied now for three years. So, has it crippled America? Has it brought us to our knees? Has it caused people to go hungry? No... but it has been extremely successful. How successful? Our budget deficit has dropped from just over 10% to 2.7% of the GDP!  

So, with this in mind, I ask you... Who do you want controlling the Nations spending? Another "tax and spend" POTUS and Congress, or a Conservative led Nation?  I think the answer is clear.

23 March, 2015

Week One: Unbelievable Results

A week ago today I started on a journey to lose not only the weight I packed on this winter, but some other weight that needs to go as well. I have had success using a low carb lifestyle (you can't do this just as a diet or it will come right back) some years ago. My doctor had suggested it to both my wife and I. I had lost weight and brought my blood pressure down, by cholesterol down and the good cholesterol up, so I decided to go that route again. The trick will be not to completely abandon it like I did about 18 months ago. I did not follow the induction phase of the diet as strict as I should, but I could tell it was working. How well it was working absolutely stunned me. One week ago today I started  weighing in at 218.5 pounds. This morning, I weighed in at 207.  I am absolutely blown away with the results... and I am really encouraged. I had set a goal to lose 15 pounds by July. I'm now thinking I can lose 20 by July. I am already feeling so much better that I don't even know how to describe it.  I'm not expecting those kind of results again, but I'm hoping to drop another 2 pounds by this time next week. 

I have to share this picture because it is amazing. In the picture below, that yellow mass is what 5 pounds of human fat looks like. Double that and that is how much is now off of my body! No wonder I feel better!