Saturday, May 31, 2014

Praying For NASCAR At The Rock

Our family used to live just outside of Rockingham, North Carolina.  As some of you may know, that used to be big NASCAR country.  They had a couple of races there each year as thousands upon thousands of fans came to our community for some great racing.  It was a big deal.

It just so happened that I knew a guy, who knew a guy, who worked for NASCAR.  Much to my surprise, I was asked to do the opening prayer at a race one weekend.  Yeah, a NASCAR race!  In front of thousands of people on live television. 

I showed up early, met my friend, picked up my pass, and was escorted down to where all the drivers, cars, and pits were.  It was a thrill for me to see guys up close and personal that I had watched on television for years.  I specifically remember they had me stand beside Mark Martin.  I didn't say anything to him because I was so nervous.

The time came for the prayer.  The television and NASCAR guys were handing me a microphone and giving me the countdown on when to pray.  Then, my name was called out over the intercom, guys were told to remove their hats, and heads were asked to be bowed.  The television guy pointed at me, and off I went into my prayer.  I thanked God for the thrill of competition and I asked Him to protect all the drivers and their crew members.  Then I asked God to help all of us fans to show good sportsmanship towards one another throughout the day.

When I finished my prayer with "Amen", I heard cheers from all over the stadium.  Specifically, I noticed this row of guys sitting by the finish line lifting up their beers and yelling, "Woo Hoo!  Amen, Preacher!"  I had to laugh.  Those boys were just having a good ole time, and the race hadn't even started yet.

I was glad that everything went so well.  It felt good to pray at such a large event and ask for God's blessings on that sea of people.  It was a cool experience that I'll always remember.

The main thing that went through my mind was this:  The prayer was not about impressing NASCAR or all of those fans.  Sure, they did matter.  I'd be lying if I said that didn't register with me.  But what was most important was just talking with God and encouraging others to do the same.

Whether we're praying

or teaching

or singing

or serving

or leading

or doing anything else in the form of ministry,

let's always remember to ultimately do it for God's approval rather than man's applause.

It's ok to receive compliments and encouragement.  We sometimes need that.  But let's not make that our main focus.  More than anything else, let's just serve God because we love Him and we want to be His hands and feet in this amazing world He created.

Thanks, NASCAR, for the awesome experience!  I had a blast.  And go Dale Earnhardt Jr.!

But most of all, thank you, God, for letting me play a small role in your awesome work in this world.  Serving you is the best honor anyone can have.  And I pray for more opportunities to serve you in any way you see fit.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Unfinished Business

I once went with some family and friends to Italy.  Rome, Florence, and Venice were the three cities we visited.  It was an amazing experience I will never forget.  The works of Michelangelo were especially fascinating.

So John Maxwell grabbed my attention when I read this in his book Be All You Can Be :

"Michelangelo worked on forty-four statues in his life.  He complete fourteen of them.  David and Moses are probably the most famous.  The other ones were never finished.  They're just blocks of stone, with perhaps an arm or a head.  There is a museum in Italy where you can see these unfinished works, the unfulfilled potential of a great genius." (page 30)

I guess a lot of us can relate to Michelangelo when it comes to unfinished business.  If we're honest, there are plenty of projects, relationships, and goals that need more attention from many of us.  And the hope is that we all will complete our tasks on this Earth while we still have time.

Paul took care of his business as a missionary:  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  (2 Timothy 4:7) 

Jesus Christ took care of His business as the Savior of the world on a Roman cross:  "It is finished."  ( John 19:30)

Hats off to Paul for serving his Lord.  And thanks be to God for Jesus Christ finishing His business and paying for our sins.  Both serve as inspirations for us to live our lives to the max.  (Of course, Jesus Christ sets the best example of all!) 

What unfinished business do you and I have left to address?  Let's not put it off.  Life is precious and time is short.  So let's make the most of today and see our matters carried through to completion. 

May we live in such a way that when our time on this Earth is done, we will have left no unfinished business.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Huey Lewis And The News Experience

Growing up in the 80s, I was a big fan of Huey Lewis And The News.  At that time, they were a big group on the music scene.  I wore out their albums "Sports" and "Fore" on my stereo at home, and I had about every song memorized.

In 1985, they went on tour.  I was only 14 years old, and I had no money, but I really wanted to go see them.  So I asked my dad if he would get tickets.  Being the cool guy that he was (and still is!), Dad drove over to the Frank McGuire Arena in Columbia, South Carolina and bought tickets.  On the night of the concert, Dad, Mom, Chuck (a buddy of mine), and I were there cheering when Huey walked out on to the stage and opened with "The Heart Of Rock N Roll."  It was an awesome concert that night.

Up to that point, I had only heard and read about the band.  But that night's experience with Huey Lewis And The News was real and in person.  And it was unforgettable.  (To see a video of how the concert went, just click HERE .)

That has me thinking...

There are a lot of people who hear and read about Jesus Christ.  But the greatest thrill one can have is to have a personal, real experience with Him.  See the difference?  Some people know facts and stories about Him, while other people know Him in a spiritually close and intimate level.

In Philippians 3:8, Paul states that for him, nothing is worth more than "knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."  A relationship with the Son of God is held up as the top priority in these words.  And nothing else matters nearly as much as that.

Let's do more than know about Jesus.  We can do better than that.  Let's get to know Him personally!  This can happen through personal encounters with Him in scripture, prayer, and worship.

I had a good time seeing and hearing Huey Lewis And The News in person.  That was a lot of fun.  But that doesn't begin to compare to the ultimate, unforgettable thrill of having a personal, life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ that evolves into a fulfilling, eternal relationship.

There's just nothing better than a close encounter with God's Son, Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thumbs Up

Pulling out of the parking lot the other day after work, I stopped at the gate to buckle up my seat belt. As soon as I clicked it in place, I looked straight ahead.  There was a police officer standing on the side of the road.  He was looking right at me.  Then he smiled and gave me a thumbs up for putting on my seat belt.  I was so relieved to get his approval!

It's a good feeling to get a thumbs up from someone in authority, isn't it?  The affirmation goes a long way.  And it makes us glad we are making good choices.

In Matthew 25:21, a master told one of his workers, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  That was a meaningful statement of approval.  And it had to have meant a great deal.

One day we Christians will stand before our Lord when our time on Earth is done.  Before we enter Heaven for eternity, our life will be evaluated and judged.  At that moment, it sure would be great to get a thumbs up or a "Well done, good and faithful servant" from our Lord.  Ok, I'm pretty sure He won't be dishing out the thumbs up sign, but I can easily believe some will receive a "Well done!" from Him.

The point is simply this:  We, who are saved by grace, should remember to live for our Lord's pleasure.  He has done so much for us!  The least we can do is live daily for Him.  It'll make our time on this Earth well spent.  And it'll position us to one day receive divine approval and rewards that stick with us for all of eternity.

It's a cool thing to get a thumbs up from a police officer.  And it's mighty special to get a "Well done!" from our boss at work.  But there's nothing better than getting approval from our Lord in Heaven.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Bottom Of The Pool

I had this dream recently:  I was in a swimming pool.  Eventually I found myself at the bottom of the pool.  I was laying on my side.  No, I was not drowning or struggling to breathe.  Nothing like that.  But I was unable to get up and swim to the top.  Some invisible force was weighing me down.  Pressure of some sort had me pinned down under the water to where I could not move.  It was almost like an unseen hand was holding me in place.  Then I woke up.

Dreams are strange, complex things.  There's no way for sure I can decipher the meaning of mine about the pool.  But I do have a thought about one interpretation of it.

Burdens.  Things that weigh on our minds and hearts.  And robbers of peace and joy.

We all experience burdens from time to time.  It's a reality of life.  And it's not pleasant.

Jesus talked about burdens in Matthew 11:28.  It was there that He said, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  What an encouraging word!

When we feel weighed down and unable to rise back up, like I was in my pool dream, help is available.  We can go to The Lord Jesus Christ through prayer, tell Him about our burdens, and receive comfort that enables our minds and hearts to rest.  He reminds us that He is in control, He will rescue us, and He will one day take us home with Him, where we will never experience burdens again.

Are you burdened and bothered today?  Do you weighed pinned down under an ocean of concerns?  Then look to Jesus.  He will ease your burden.  He will comfort your mind and heart.  And He will raise you up from the depths to peace and joy.

Let Jesus handle the pressure of your burdens today.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Plugged In

Three years ago, a good friend gave our family a golf cart.  It was an awesome gift!  With a seat on the back, four of us were able to ride at a time.  It provided a fun way for us to travel around the neighborhood and visit the homes of friends.

In addition to the golf cart, we were given a charger.  I learned quickly it was (and still is) a vital tool.  Each night, I plugged in the golf cart to the charger, which gave the battery needed power.  Because we nightly plugged in, we were able to go places.

Spiritually speaking, we daily need to be plugged in to God so we can be strong and move forward.  Our hearts must be connected to our Lord.  When this happens, His strength flows into us, and we are able to live the life He has intended for us.

How do we plug into God?  By walking with Him through scripture.  By connecting with Him through prayer.  And by bonding with Him through worship.  These three disciplines enable us to grow closer to God and to be filled with necessary power for daily living.

Just like our golf cart, we must stay plugged into our God.  It's the only way we will be strong.  It's the only way we'll progress and go places in life.  

So, why not get plugged in now?  Let's all do it!  And when we do, these words of Paul will become a personal reality for each of us:  "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."  (Phillipians 4:13)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

After We Sin

 I recently read this sentence by Craig Groeschel in his book Fight"When we face failure, we can choose between two responses: remorse and repentance."

As I look back over my life to this point, I can see exactly what he's talking about.  And I bet you can too with your own life.  We've all had to choose between the two.

After we Christians fall and sin, we sometimes respond with remorse.  Remorse says, "Wow, I feel so bad about what I did.  That was so wrong of me.  How could I have been so foolish?"  It seems to me that remorse just embraces the shame over the wrongdoing but goes no further.

Other times, we respond with repentance.  This goes way beyond remorse.  Repentance says, "What I did was wrong.  I deeply regret my action because it offended God and hurt other people.  So I will confess my sin to God, and, with His strength, learn from my mistake and not repeat it again.  In my future, I want to live and behave differently."

See the difference?  Remorse just feels bad about what happened.  Repentance feels a conviction about the sin, and then wants to change.

Repentance is like a u-turn.  You know what I'm talking about, don't  you?  A car can be driving west.  Then, when it makes a u-turn, it turns around and heads the opposite direction, which is east.  It's a change.  Repentance takes place when there is a change in our life.

In John 1:15, we see Jesus beginning His ministry with a short but powerful message:  "Repent and believe the good news!"  One huge reason we know repentance is a big deal is that Jesus preached about it right from the beginning.  We see Him calling us all to flee from self-centered sin and race to God-centered righteousness.

We all mess up.  I certainly have at times!  At this point, we have a choice to make.  Either we can feel remorse or exercise repentance.

May God help us to hate our sin, do a u-turn, change, and live in His righteousness.

May our hearts experience genuine repentance.

May a radical transformation take place in our lives, from the inside out, to where we become new people.

Repentance.  It's the way to go.  Let's all travel that path today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Power Of Counting Blessings

Monday, I was feeling down.  It was just one of those days.  My heart was heavy and my mind was distracted.

Then I met the old man.

I was leaving a local business the same time he was.  As we reached the bottom of the ramp that ended in the parking lot, he turned around and introduced himself to me.  I told him my name and shook his hand.

Then the old man smiled and started talking to me like he knew me.

"I'm so glad to live in America!  Aren't you?  Think about all the freedoms we have in this country."

Then, without missing a beat, he continued.

"Even though I've suffered heart attacks and endured surgeries, I am so thankful!  Aren't you?  I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and clothes to wear.  Then I get to stand out here in the great outdoors and see the beauty of this creation.  The trees and the sky are so beautiful.  God is good, and even though life hasn't always been easy for me, I consider myself blessed greatly by Him!"

I stood there for a moment and thought about what he said.  Then I spoke.

"Sir, I want to thank you.  I've been a little down lately.  This has been a tough season of life for me.  But what you said has reminded me of how fortunate I am.  And it helps me put my problems in perspective.  I really appreciate your positive words."

He smiled.  We shook hands again.  And after we spoke another couple of minutes, he left with a wave.

I got in my old Nissan Pathfinder there in the parking lot and thought about the power of counting blessings.  Focusing on what was going right in my life had lifted my spirit, settled my mind, and lightened my mood.  I felt a fresh wave of joy come over me.  Peace soothed and calmed me.  That conversation rescued my aching heart.

Paul was right when he wrote "give thanks in all circumstances".  That's 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and an important reminder.  Counting our blessings and giving thanks are both pleasing to God and helpful to us.  God is worshipped when we express our gratitude to Him.  And we are encouraged when we focus on how fortunate we really are.

Would you like a little boost in your heart today?  Do things have you down a little bit?  Then try this:  Count your blessings!  And when you do, I promise your heart will be touched and moved in a positive way.

P.S.  If you have a moment and want to hear an uplifting song about counting blessings, just click HERE.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, Christians, Our Behavior Does Matter - Part 2

So, Jesus is our Savior.  Our sins are forgiven.  And we have assurance we are headed to Heaven.

What a perfect position to be in!

But our behavior still does matter.  Quite a lot, actually.  Here are 5 reasons why...

[1]  The Lord Himself now lives in our hearts.  When we say "Yes" to Jesus, His spirit takes up residence within us.  That makes our bodies a walking, talking temple where He abides 24/7.  Righteous living keeps His dwelling in our lives a pleasant experience for Him.  1 Corinthians 6:19 states "your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you..."

[2]  We have been bought by our Lord, and we belong to Him.  God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and to pay for our sins.  He paid a HUGE price to rescue us.  And because of that, He owns us.  But it is a good thing to be owned by God.  It means He claims us, protects us, provides for us, treasures us, and forever will keep us.  It also means that we are now to live righteously for Him rather than unrighteously for ourselves.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states "You are not your own; you were bought at at price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies." 

[3]  We will stand one day before our Lord and be judged for what we did with our salvation.  Christians, when we die, we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Now this judgement will not determine whether or not we get into Heaven.  That matter was already settled when we accepted Jesus as our Savior.  The Judgment Seat of Christ is where we will give an account for how we lived our lives after we got saved.  It is also the place when we will find out if we will be given any rewards to enjoy in Heaven.  2 Corinthians 5:10 states, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." 

[4]  We prove our love for our Lord when we live for Him.  Love is more than lip service.  Talk is cheap.  It's actions that demonstrate where our heart is.  Nothing expresses our love for Him more than living righteously for Him.  John 14:23 is where our Lord states, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching."

[5]  We are called by God to imitate Him with right living.  When our lives reflect Him, holiness abounds in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  It's everywhere!  And this pleases Him greatly.  1 Peter 1:16 is where our Lord states, "Be holy, because I am holy."

Yes, Christians, our behavior does matter.  Our lifestyle should be one of righteousness.  No, we're not perfect.  We do struggle.  But overall, our lives, from the inside out, should be more and more like that of Jesus.  God calls us to do this, and the best thing is, He enables us to do it.

Let's live for Him today!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Yes, Christians, Our Behavior Does Matter - Part 1

We Christians tend to make a big deal out of grace.  And rightfully so!  After all, it's the grace of God that saves us.

The Apostle Paul once wrote, "For it is by grace you have been saved ... it is the gift of God."  That's Ephesians 2:8.  It means that God, out of His goodness, chose to love us, forgive us, and rescue us from eternal destruction.  The salvation we enjoy is a gift from Him, and we did nothing to earn it. That's why we make a big deal out of grace.

But, here is where we sometimes slip up:  We wrongly think that if we aren't saved by our works and behavior, then we are free to act however we want to act and do whatever we want to do.  This erroneous mindset assumes, "Well, God's already saved me, forgiven me, and promised me a place in Heaven; therefore, it's no big deal if I sin."  

That's why Ephesians 2:10 is so important.  After teaching us that we are saved by God's grace, Paul gives this important nugget of wisdom:  "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  That is so vital for us to grasp!  Yes, we are saved by God's good works.  But the second half of the deal is that our salvation should lead to good works in our lives.  God made us and saved us to do good works in His name, by His strength, and for His glory.  

Yes, our behavior does matter.  Very much so!  Our actions on the outside ultimately reveal our heart on the inside.  

We all struggle and fail.  I know I sure do.  We all stumble morally in one way or another.  But overall, if we are saved by the grace of God and connected to the Son of God, our lives ought to be characterized by the righteousness of God.  And when we sin, it ought to bug us enough to confess it to God and flee from it.

Romans 6:1-2 is where Paul makes this point:  "What shall we say then?  Shall we go on sinning so that may grace may increase?  By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"  There you have it.  The grace of God is not a license to sin.  Not at all.  

Grace.  What an awesome thing!  It makes all the difference in the world.  And when we receive it from God, it ultimately propels us to live righteously for God.  Because He blesses us with salvation, we thank and honor Him with a life of good works.  That ought to be the desire of our hearts and the goal of our lives.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Being Heard

The crying kid would not calm down.  He was having some sort of emotional meltdown as he sobbed and yelled.  The volume grew louder and louder every minute there in the Winn Dixie check out line.  It was ear piercing and it overwhelmed us all yesterday as we tried to get out the door as quickly as possible.

I could hear him loud and clear.

But chances are very slim that anyone heard him at the Subway a few doors down.

And there is no way anybody heard him at the Ford dealership across the road.

Our cries and expressions of pain only go so far with people.

 But with God, it's a different story.  He hears us all the way from Heaven.  Every cry and whimper is immediately detected by Him.

God, while sitting on His majestic throne, heard that sad little boy yesterday.  He heard every bit of it. And God cared.

In Exodus 2:23, people cried out to God.  They were held as slaves in Egypt.  And their hard life of forced servitude lead them to cry out for help from above.  Then, in verse 24, "God heard their groaning."  Their sad cries of pain were heard loud and clear by God.

No matter who we are and where we are, God hears us.  He hears our cheers of happiness and joy.  And He hears our sobs of grief and of pain.  What a relief that is!

If you are hurting and crying out to God, rest assured you are being heard.   God is tuned in and keenly aware of what you're experiencing.  And He has a perfect plan of response.

The same God who heard the Israelites and that little boy in the Winn Dixie hears you.  He is there and He does care.  So rest assured you are being heard.  And know beyond the shadow of a doubt, God will rescue you.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Be A Berean

The Bereans were Christians mentioned in Acts 17:11.  I've always admired them because of how the Bible described them.  And I think they set an example for us today.

You see, they loved hearing Paul preach.  The Bible says "they received the message with great eagerness."  In other words, when Paul gave them a sermon, they soaked it all up like a sponge.

I love hearing sermons too!  On my IPod are tons of messages by preachers and Bible teachers.  And I love listening to them.

But the Bereans did not just listen.  No, not at all!  They did something else.  The verse says they "examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."  In other words, while Paul was preaching, they were looking in God's Word to see if Paul was accurate in what he was saying.

What a great idea!

I remember watching my dad do that in church during my growing up years.  When the pastor was preaching, dad had his own Bible open.  He was following along and reading for himself.  At times he would underline things and make his own notes in the margins.

When we listen to sermons or Bible studies, it's wise to have our own Bibles open so we can examine the scriptures being discussed.  That's what the Bereans did.  And it's smart for us to do the same.

Listen, no matter how much you may love and respect the one preaching or teaching, remember they are human and, therefore, capable of making mistakes.  Just like you and I make mistakes!  So always check the Bible to see if what you're being taught is actually true.  That does not mean you don't trust the one giving the sermon or lesson.  It just means that you want to be safely grounded in God's Word.

If your pastor or teacher ever tells you one thing, and the Bible tells you something different, make sure you go with the Bible.  After all, God's Word is inspired, perfect, and authoritative.  It is the source of truth and deserving of our trust.

Pray for those who preach and teach the scriptures.  Love them and support them.  And do listen to them.  There are good preachers and teachers out there who give wonderful sermons that enlighten and bless those who listen.

But always play it safe when dealing with theological matters.  Make sure to consult and stick with scripture.  God's Word is always right and never wrong.  And it is the measuring stick you can use to tell whether that sermon or Bible study you're hearing is true or false.

The next time you listen to a sermon or Bible study, be a Berean!  Open up that Bible to follow along for yourself.  And prepare to blessed by the awesome truths and promises you will find inside.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Read And Follow The Directions

I attended a professional development day for teachers today at my school.  One segment of it was an exercise in arts and crafts.  Now I don't have an artistic bone in my body.  I'm no good at that kind of stuff.  So I just watched how one of the teachers at my table was doing hers, and I copied what she did.  Whatever she did with her paper, I did with mine.  Finally, after a little while, she looked at me and asked, "Mr. Richardson, are you being like most men and not reading the directions for yourself?".  Needless to say, we all cracked up laughing.

She was right.  I was following her instead of reading and following the directions for myself.  Hey, don't be too hard on me.  After all, the coach sitting next to me was doing the same thing!  (It really must be a "guy thing"!)

That got me thinking about Christianity...

How many of us follow other Christians and copy them instead of reading and following God's directions (The Bible) for ourselves?

Maybe it's a preacher, a grandparent, or a mentor that we look up to.  No matter how wise and godly they may be, they're still just people.  People who have flaws and imperfections.

That teacher could have accidentally led me the wrong direction.  And because I followed her instead of the directions that were given to me, I could have messed up.  That would have been sad.

That person you admire and follow can accidentally lead you the wrong direction.  Or they can let you down. People do fail, you know?!  And if you're not cultivating your own relationship with God in His Word, you'll unknowingly follow them down the wrong path or end up majorly confused.

Follow God by reading and living by His Word.  Sure, people can advise and encourage you.  But remember that God alone is perfect and all-wise.  It is Him, not a person, that we should ultimately set our eyes on daily.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Donald Sterling And Forgiveness

Most of us have heard by now of Donald Sterling.  He's the owner of the L.A. Clippers, a professional basketball team.  Recently, all of the headlines were about racially offensive comments he made.  He has been fined, banned from the NBA, and told to "get out!" by most people in the league.

Over the weekend, Sterling was interviewed on CNN.  Basically, he admitted what he said was wrong.  Here is part of what he said:  "I made a terrible mistake.  I'm here to apologize."  

So, what will become of Donald Sterling?  His racially insensitive comments were obviously wrong and hurtful.  There's no denying that.  And yet, he now apologizes for it.  What are we to do?

Some people will never forgive him.

Others will forgive him and put the whole experience behind them.

I've learned these two lessons in my life:

(1). God forgives.  All of the ugly, wrong things we think, say, and do can be wiped away and erased by our Lord when we confess and repent before Him.  Even mean-spirited, racially offensive comments are forgiven by Him.  God can more than handle the ugly messes we make in our lives.  He can forgive you, me, and Donald Sterling.  And thank goodness for that!

(2). We are to forgive each other with humble hearts.  It's important to remember that none of us are perfect, and all of us have needed forgiveness at some point in our lives.  We all are flawed, imperfect sinners in need of another chance.  So who are we to deny the Donald Sterlings of the same forgiveness that we too have asked for and received along the way?

Obviously, there are consequences for our wrongdoings.  At times we do have to pay a price for the foolish choices we make.  And this is true even when we receive forgiveness.  But in the midst of consequences, we can still receive love and compassion from God and other people.

Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4:32 - "Be kind and compassionate to one another another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."   What a good rule to live by.  Forgiveness is a golden virtue.

As for me, yes, I can forgive Donald Sterling.  Of course he did wrong.  But, in other ways, I've done plenty of wrong things in my life as well.  I've received forgiveness before from God and from other people.  So it's pretty obvious to me that I should extend Mr. Sterling the same blessing.

God forgives us.  And we in return must forgive each other.  That's just how things should be.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


In my growing up years, I was always interested in comic-inspired superheroes.  Like a lot of young boys, I checked out the comic books, collected the action figures, and watched the tv shows.  Some of my favorites were...

Batman - He was dark, mysterious, and the proud owner of the coolest gadgets around.  His car was mighty sweet too.

The Incredible Hulk - Green and mean!  This big guy had unlimited strength and could do anything.  His power and size was impressive.

Captain America - He was clearly a good guy that fought against evil.  His red, white, and blue costume was cool.

Yep, I always enjoyed my superheroes.  Even today, I'll go with my kids to the movies about these guys and enjoy them.  I guess I have not totally gotten over my interest in these fun stories.

Superheroes.  What's not to like about them?  They have powers, take daring risks, make sacrifices, and inspire us to dream big.  There's nothing wrong with that.

Here's an obvious point:  All of those guys are fictitious.  They're not real.  None of them actually exist.

But the ULTIMATE superhero is real and alive today.  His name is Jesus Christ.  And He is like no other!

He is the Son of God.

He was born of a virgin.

He performed many miracles.

He allowed Himself to die on a cross to rescue us.

He came back to life and walked out of His tomb.

He defeated Satan, who is the ultimate, real bad guy.

He ascended back up to Heaven and sat at His Father's right hand.

He will one day return to Earth in all of His greatness and glory.

And here is the best thing of all...

He has the power to forgive our sins, save our souls, and transform our lives.

Jesus Christ rules over all!  He is mighty and wonderful.  Fix your eyes on Him, follow Him, and give your heart to Him.

He is the ultimate superhero who will always come through for you, and He will never let you down.

Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord.  He is my hero.  He is my hope forevermore.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Flying Scissors

In junior high school, I was the water-boy for the varsity football team.  It was thrilling for me as a young kid to be around those older guys that I looked up to.  In many ways, I wanted to be like them.

But Wade really made my life miserable.  He was a senior.  The problem was he enjoyed picking on me and giving me a hard time.  I remember one night in particular, he was griping at me pretty much the whole game because he didn't like the taste of the Gatorade I made.  All night long he gave me lip about it.  Needless to say, I was fed up.

That night I was riding with the team on the bus back to our school after we won our game.  Wade was sitting several rows in front of me and continuing to yell at me.  I hit my limit when he told me to get him a pair of scissors from the box.

Now, what I did was wrong.  I am not proud of this.  So I am in no way whatsoever encouraging anyone else to do what I did next...

I picked out a pair of scissors from my box, and threw them at Wade on the bus.  Yep, I did that.  Needless to say, it scared him to death.  Wouldn't you be scared to see flying scissors headed your way?

Now, I must admit, I did make sure it was the dull pair of scissors that had no sharp edges or points.  I just wanted to scare him.  But the truth is, that was still dangerous and wrong of me.

I will say that afterwards, he and I became better friends.  :)

Why do I tell you that story?  I want to make a simple point, and here it is:  It's ok to feel anger, but it's not ok to lose control in the midst of it.

"Be angry and sin not," says James 4:26.  Catch the point?  It's not a sin to feel anger.  But it is a sin when we mishandle our anger and lash out verbally or physically in inappropriate ways.

I'm sorry I threw the scissors at Wade.  That was wrong of me.  I should have handled my anger better.

May God help us all to stay in control of our temper.  And may we find healthy, productive ways to deal with our feelings when we get mad.  It is vital to handle our emotions responsibly if we are to have good relationships with our family and friends.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Keep The Change?

My dad has been a traveling hardware salesman for most of my life.  He has driven thousands upon thousands of miles to sell hammers, nails, saws, and other hardware items to stores, who in turn will sell them to their customers.  It's an interesting work, and Dad is really good at it.

In my younger years, Dad told me about a store he visited on a regular basis in the lower part of South Carolina.  The guy who owned the store also ran the cash register.  Every time anyone bought something at that store, the owner rang up the item, took the customer's money, and asked, "Keep the change?"  Literally every time an item was sold he did this.  There was even a painted picture on the outside of the store with him standing by his cash register and asking, "Keep the change?"  The old guy did not mind asking at all for any spare change he could get.

Now, I have no clue how much money he collected over the years by asking this question.  But I'll tell you this:  He did benefit by asking. Asking paid off at least somewhat.  And he got more spare change than those cash register workers who did not ask for it.

Reflecting upon this reminds me of a Bible verse.  In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you."  He was talking about praying to God over our needs.  And while this did not guarantee we will be granted every little desire we pray about, it does tell us that God provides what His children need.  Notice what Jesus instructed us to do:  "ask".

The old man at the cash register asked.  What did he have to lose?  There was no harm in asking.

Think about your needs right now.  They can be physical, emotional, mental, relational, financial, vocational, or spiritual.  What are your needs?  Why not go to God and ask Him to meet those needs?  Ask Him to provide for you.  What do you have to lose?  There is no harm in asking.  God is more than capable of coming through for you.  He can give you things far better than a few cents of spare change.  And He is your loving Heavenly Father who wants to take care of you.

The old man just asked.  Let's all go to God about our needs and do the same.  Let's ask Him and see what happens...

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Gift Of A Lift

Lara and I met another couple for breakfast over the weekend.  It was a wonderful time of warm fellowship and delicious food.  During the visit, our friends told us a true story about their marriage.

The husband, who I call "Chief", had some bad health problems that led to a tough surgery.  It was no walk in the park, and his recovery was difficult.  One day his wife was watching him in rehab.  Chief was given a couple of two-pound weights to lift.  My friend did ok with them, but he simply could not lift them above his head.   It broke his wife's heart.  He's always been a strong, tough guy.  A manly sort of fellow.  And there he was, struggling to lift two-pound weights over his head.

So Chief's wife walked over to him, stood behind him, and helped him.  She lifted up his arms and enabled him to raise up the weights.  While she wasn't sure at first if it was ok to do that, she just wanted to help the one she loved.  Fortunately, the lady in charge of Chief's rehab told her it was just fine.

What a story, and what a love!

Sometimes in marriage, one spouse can be weaker than the other spouse.  Weaker physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.  It happens.  When this becomes the case, we must be strong for that special someone.  Our responsibility is to lift them up and empower them.  Let's raise them in the same way Chief's wife raised him arms: lovingly and patiently.

I think their story helps explain how my friends have stayed married longer than I've been living.  They have hung in there with each other and helped each other in the tough times.  Neither one of them have thrown up their hands and walked away; instead, both of them have been the wind in one another's sails.  They have supported and inspired each other along the way.

Let's extend our spouse the gift of a lift today.  We can give them a boost with kind words, helpful deeds, and heart-felt prayers.  And when we do, we will be blessing them in the best way possible.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Keep Hacking Away

I was in the mountains of North Carolina with a church youth group.  We were setting up our tents and getting the camp site ready for a fun-filled weekend.  Everyone was excited about roughing it.

I grabbed an ax and walked up to a thick tree branch that was laying on the ground.  We needed some firewood.  So I reared back my ax and swung with all my might.  Then I swung again.  And again.  I realized it was hard wood and it was going to require more swings than I first thought.

As I continued hacking away, I was determined to cut the large branch in half.  Quitting was not an option.  Then some teenagers gathered and watched me swing.  The pressure was mounting!  Finally, I yelled out loud, "You're not going to beat me!" as I swung and finally cut it in half.  Victory was mine.

I'm sure those young people laughed to themselves.  But I didn't care.  I just wanted to succeed.

What are you struggling with right now?

Marriage issues?  Financial problems?  Unemployment?  Addiction?  Depression?

Whatever it is ... keep hacking away at it until you succeed!

Remember that the power God has put inside you is far greater than the struggle that lies before you.  You have been given what it takes to overcome this.  So keep your chin up, put your shoulders back, look your problem square in the eye, and determine in your mind that you will succeed.

Hang in there with that marriage.

Keep working on those finances.

Fill out more job applications.

Get counseling for your addiction or depression.

Just keep hacking away!

If felt good to finally break through that branch with my ax.  But it will feel far better when we break through other, more pressing, obstacles that we face in our lives.  And by staying connected to the power of God, we will do just that!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How To Hear God

I was talking recently to the teacher who has a classroom next to mine.  She is a neat lady who has been teaching for many years.  The truth is, I greatly respect her.

"Your kids are so quiet in your classroom that I never hear noise through the wall," I told her.

She smiled and responded, "Well, I never hear your kids making noise either.  But there is one thing I do hear through the wall:  your sneezes."

I had to laugh!  The truth is, I am a loud sneezer.  So that did not surprise me at all.  :)

That's how it goes with her and me.  I never hear her.  She occasionally hears me.

Have you noticed that's how most people are when it comes to their relationship with God?  Some people claim to never hear God.  Others say they hear Him every now and then, though I'm pretty sure the sound is not a sneeze from Heaven.

The good news is, we all can hear God.

Now I've never heard God speak in an audible voice.  Some people claim they have.  And that's great!  I know God is capable of speaking like that if He wants to.  But personally, I've never heard God talk out loud.

But I have heard God speak before in these three ways:

1)  Through His Word.  Plenty of times, while reading the Bible, I have felt that God was communicating with me through the sacred words on the page I was studying.

2)  Through Prayer.  On more than one occasion, I have been praying over a matter and felt God gently nudging or tugging my heart in a certain direction.

3)  Through Mature Christians.  Often times, I have had a wise, mature Christian begin talking to me about something, and I could tell that God was speaking to me through that person.

I want to hear more and more of God speaking.  Silence is not what I desire at all!  His voice is the main voice I long to hear.

And if I were a betting man, I'd bet you want to hear God communicating with you.

Let's all do this:  Spend time reading the Bible, engaging in prayer, and listening to mature Christians.  When we do these three things, the chances are pretty good that eventually we will hear God speaking directly to us as individuals.  And what a thrill it will be to hear Him!