Sermon "Skill in Your Hand & God in Your Heart"

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Your Voice Sounds Better in the Key of Praise

Are you good at doing voices? Imitating people? Sure you are. Try it out.  Pick your favorite singer, now try to sound just like them singing a line or two of your favorite song. Go ahead...I'll wait. Wellll, good job! Didn't know you had it in ya. Ok, now. Thinking of the most annoying voice you've ever heard, and in that voice, sing this little ditty..."why, why, whhhhyyyy, how, how, hooowwww, no, no, nooooo". Oh wow, ok that's enough...that's enough I said.

Ok so, here's the easiest part of this little exercise. Answer this question. Which one do you prefer hearing? Exactly. That's my point. So glad you understand what I'm getting at. God bless you and thanks for reading my post. Until next time.

Oh...say what? You didn't get my point? Ooooh. That's right. You might not have read the same scripture passages I read yesterday. See, I'm doing this chronological, through the bible reading plan using the Bible app. And yesterday, it had me reading  5 chapters in Psalms. All of them saying something about SINGING unto the Lord. Ok, read for yourself.

-Psalm 89:1 "I will sing of the lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness."
- Psalm 96:1-2 "Sing a new song to the lord! Let the whole earth sing to the lord! Sing to the lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves."
-Psalm 100:2 "Worship the lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy."
- Psalm 101:1 "I will sing of your love and justice, lord. I will praise you with songs."
- Psalm 105:2 "Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds."

Do you see anything in those verses about whining unto the Lord? Nope! Then why do we do it so much! Goodness gracious, if anyone had anything to whine about, it would have been King David. Goliath wanted to crush him. Saul wanted to spear him. His baby died. Some of his kids went rogue. Even at probably the most triumphant time in his reign as king, when he defeated his foe and brought the Ark of the Covenant home, his wife who should have been cheering him on, nagged about him dancing in the streets. He had plenty of reason to whine. But instead, in all these verses and more, David said that he would sing unto the Lord. So what do you think we ought to do?

Look, its not that we don't ever have reason to whine. I mean even the bible says in Job 14:1 that "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble".  And God certainly encourages us to cast our cares on Him. But please, don't let that be the only thing He hears from us. Because the thing is, God's glory is greater than our grief. The Lord deserves to receive our praise more than we need vent our problems. And if we proclaim to the world we're Christians, yet we're always whining "Woe is meeee!", it's no wonder we have a hard time drawing the people around us to Christ.

Never forget, your voice sounds much better in the key of praise! So go ahead, warm up your vocals (me-me-me-meeeee), get ready to hit that high note, and sing God His glory!

Friday, November 18, 2016

For Jesus to be My Shepherd, I Must Surrender as His Sheep

If you read the Bible, then I bet I can guess your favorite scripture passage...Psalms 23. Am I right? ...Well at least I was close. But you'd agree it is a beloved passage for us who love God's word. I would even dare to guess that behind John 3:16 and the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6, the 23rd Psalm is one of the most memorized and quoted set of verses in the whole Bible. I mean just listen to how it starts off (say it with me now)..."The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want". Ahhhh yeah, I like that.

I think we love that not only for HOW God says it (it is one of the most poetic passages in all of the Bible) and for WHAT God is saying. We feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that God is our shepherd. Right? I know I do.

But I think there is the unspoken component of this passage that we mostly ignore. That is, if God is our shepherd, then that makes us His sheep. Let this sink in now...if we want to submit that God is our shepherd, that He protects us, provides for us, chases after us when we go astray, and carries us in His loving arms when we struggle, then we also have to submit to being His sheep.

Do you know what sheep are like? They are peaceful, quiet, and fluffy animals. Hey, I think I can be that. But they're also not very smart, short-sighted, easily frightened, irrational animals who prefer to follow the herd into a dangerous place than to stay alone in a safe place. Is that you?

Well, as much as I hate to admit, it is a lot like me in a lot of ways at a lot of times. So if you and I truly want to embrace Psalms 23, then we have to accept that God is in charge, and we're not. God knows best, and we don't. God can get us home safely, and we can't.

See often our problem is that we like the notion of God being our shepherd, but we have a hard time of letting go of the staff. He and we can't both be the shepherd over our lives at the same time. We have to surrender. And in a world that teaches us to be our own person, and do what we feel, and take control of our own life, it's pretty hard to surrender the staff to Jesus. None of us want to be seen as sheepish. But let me tell you what I've figured out. I'd rather take Jesus' lead and go the right path, than to plot my own course and go down the wrong one. So every day I'm trying my best to take my hand off the Shepherd's staff.

Clock here to read Psalm 23 and see all the benefits that come with surrendering to the Shepherd.

#seeinggodeveryday

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Veteran's Day Devotional

Here's a story I read that I'd like to share with you. It's a story of two young men, Harold and Mack, who served along side each other in Italy during World War II. One was from Illinois and the other California. Had they met in civilian life, they'd had no common interests and likely would have never been friends. But on the battle field, they became closer than brothers.

Mack started having a bad feeling that he wasn't going to make it out alive. So he gave Harold some mementos and said that if anything ever happened to him, to find his sister and give them to her. He also gave Harold permission to give her a kiss. Harold made a promise to Mack to fulfill his wish. One day later, Mack was killed in heavy artillery fire.

For over 50 years, Harold searched for Mack's sister. Every lead turned up empty, and every woman with the same name turned up to be the wrong woman. He could have given up, and it would have meant nothing to anyone else. But it meant everything to Harold. He had made a promise to his best friend, and it was a promise he intended to keep.

Finally with the help of his daughter, Harold located Mack's sister. They met at the veterans memorial in Marysville, California where Mack's name is inscribed in marble. Harold gave her all the items that Mack wanted his sister to have. Then he leaned over and gave her a kiss.

Would you keep a promise like that? Could you keep a promise like that? Well I know someone who's kept an even greater promise. His name is Jesus. He promised to shed His glory and come down to the earth for us...and He did. He promised to live a righteous life that would be an example to follow...and He did. He promised to choose a few people who would start His church and spread His word so that we can get to know Him..and He did. He promised to take the punishment for our sins and die on the cross for our salvation...and He did. He promised to return to the Father and prepare a place for us in Heaven..and He did. And, He promised to come back one day for us who believe so we can live with Him forever...and....He will!

Proverbs 18:24 talks about a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That's referring to Jesus! John 15:13 says that there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends. That's talking about Jesus! 1 Peter 3:9 reminds us that God is not slack when it comes to His promises. What He said He will do, He will do! That especially applies to Jesus! There might be things that you doubt, there might be things that you fear. But let your heart and mind find rest in the fact that God keeps His promises!

To all the veterans who may read this, I say thank you for your service! God's blessings and strength to you today and everyday. No matter what you have been through, I pray you are resting on the promises of God.

#seeinggodeveryday

Monday, November 7, 2016

My Story is for God's Glory

Here's a verse I want you to read...

"But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt." Exodus 7:3 NLT

Did you catch that? God said that He was going to purposely make Pharaoh's heart stubborn ("hard" in the KJV) so that He could multiply His signs and wonders. That meant God was going to make it difficult, correction...impossible for them to leave Egypt just so that His works would be even more noticeable. The Lord could have made their exodus easy. In fact, He could have made it so it required no miracles at all. He could have simply touched Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh would have said "Ok, you can go", and that would have been that.

But would people have seen God in that? Would God have gotten the glory, or would the Israelites have said "I tell ya, that Pharaoh sure is a nice guy", or "That Moses sure is an awesome deliverer". Would we be reading about it and commenting on it here on social media thousands of years later? ....Probably not. So the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart to set a dark stage from which His light could shine even brighter.

I don't know about you, but that gives more purpose to my pain. That lets me know that even my hard times can be a part of God's plan. And His plan just might be that through my difficult situations, correction...impossible situations, I will be delivered, and He will be revealed.  Through Christ I will be stronger, and through me Christ will be known.

So you and I both have to ask ourselves this question...Am I ok with that? As Oswald Chambers put it, am I willing to be broken bread and poured out wine? Make no mistake about it, our lives are like candles burning down shorter every day. Some burning out faster than others. What we have to decide is while it burns, will I let my light shine on Jesus.

I don't know about you, but I have decided that my story will be for His glory!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Heaven is a Long Way From Hell

Take a moment to read this story from the Bible....

Luke 16:19-31(NLT) - The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores.  As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side. “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’ “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’  “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’  “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’ “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

There is a lot we can learn from that story. Often we tend to focus on the fact that one man was rich and the other man poor, and then try to figure out what that means for us and the material wealth we have or desire to accumulate. I personally don't think that's the main point of the story. I think Jesus shared that with His followers then and with us now to point out how far Heaven is from hell.

I hope you do accept that both are real places, and every person ever born will eventually see one of the two...but not both. And not only are they two distinct places, but they are separated with a great divide in between. They're not like New York and New Jersey with nothing but a bridge separating the two. No they are as far apart as the East is from the West. Abraham told the rich man that there is a great chasm or divide between the two and no one can cross over from one to the other.  And that fact probably has more meaning for most people when we die, but I want you to know that it has meaning for us now while we still live.

My point...ok I'm getting to it, don't rush me...my point is this. Too many people want to be on their way to Heaven but live everyday like hell. (Was that inappropriate? I hope not). So many people want to have a sense of security in calling themselves a Christian and saying they believe in God yet live the majority of their lives pointed away from Him. Please hear me, we need to know that Heaven and hell are eternities apart and we can't be going in the direction of both of them at the same time. Now if you get to an intersection and you find a way to turn left and right at the same time, then I'll come back and admit I'm wrong. Until then, let all of us who plan to be in Heaven one day strive every day to live like we're already there.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When God Calls You to Go Farther and Deeper

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted." Matthew 14:29‭-‬30 NLT
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When I was a kid, I ejoyed going to the beach. We didn't go often, but when we did it was a real treat. The sand offered endless opportunities for playing and the water, well for me then was more for viewing.

Back then I could not swim at all. I can barely swim now. What kept me from learning was my fear of drowning (I know weird right?). So I could never get to the comfort level needed to even float, much more to swim. But I would get brave enough to walk to the water's edge and get my feet wet.

I remember standing there as the waves rushed over my feet. That felt good. Added to the cool ocean breeze on my face and the sun on my shoulders, it was fantastic. I'd sometimes get caugt up into the beauty of the ocean and cautiously walk out a little farther. Then I could feel the foamy water on my knees. I'd go yet a little farther. That is until I could feel the current pulling the sand out from under my feet. Then I'd quikly retreat.   See I would venture out only as far as I felt I was strong enough and capable enough to stand up on my own.

I've faced that in other areas of my life; in fact I'm facing a situation like that now. I'm sure you can relate. You find yourself in a place  where it feels like the waves of life are pulling the sand from under your feet. It's too scary of a feeling when you can no longer trust your own abilites, so you feel the urge to retreat.

But...what if God is calling you to go further...to step out deeper? That's how He called Peter. Peter wasn't called to swim in the water. He was called to walk on it. Everything in this natural world was telling him he couldn't do that, but a God with supernatural powers was telling him he could. So...he stepped out.

But just like me and just like you, Peter experienced the terror of no longer being able to trust his own ability to stand. Like when I was a kid at the beach feeling the sand being pulled from beneathbmy feet, his mind lost focus of Jesus and turned to his own limitations. He took his trust from Jesus and placed them upon himself. He thought about how he couldn't do what he was already doing.  And so he began to sink.

Do you know what Jesus said to Peter? Not, "Oh ye of little ability", or "Oh yeah of little knowledge", and not even "Oh ye of little courage". He said, "Oh ye of little faith". You see when Peter stepped out of the boat, it was not water he was walking on. It was faith.

And so, I encourage you as I encourage myself. Don't place your faith in your own abilities or knowledge. In times of testing you will find they will let you down about as quick as my little legs at the water's edge. Place your trust in an all powerful and all loving saviour whose name is Jesus. Then you'll go farther and deeper than you've ever been before.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I Expect More...of My Expectations (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. I am looking forward to another opportunity to glory You through the job You blessed me with. I pray for a good day at work today.

Lord, it's like You've been having my life on replay; teaching me new things with old stories. Like I was thinking back to when I had to take swimming lessons in college. Passing the swimming test was a requirement, and I was worried sick about that because I couldn't swim at all. The class was divided between those who could swim some, but couldn't pass the test, and those who could not swim at all, which was my crowd. Then we were buddied up within that group, and my partner was a guy who looked as scared as I was. Well, long prayer short, we went though the basics and to my amazement, I was learning how to swim.

So Lord, it finally came down to the day we had to take our swimming test. One part of the test was that we had to swim all the way across the width of the pool using any stroke we chose. So I chose the basic crawl stroke, because it was the one I could do the easiest. But the one thing about that stroke that I never mastered was the part where you turn your head, lifting your mouth just out of the water to get some air. So I had to adapt to overcome, and I knew I would just have to hold my breath all the way across the pool.

So there I was swimming, which probably looked more like thrashing, but making my away across that pool. Honestly Lord, I never expected I would make it all the way across. I figured that since I was a beginner and had to hold my breath, I wouldn't make it. I was stroking and kicking and feeling like I must have missed a turn because the other side of the pool would never show up. My breath was giving out, and I just knew I wouldn't reach the other side. I pretty much accepted the fact that I would probably have to retake the class.

So Lord, I decided to stop swimming. And You know what...when I stood up in the pool, and took off my fog-filled goggles, there I was standing within less than two feet from the side. Had I just gave one more kick, and one more stroke, or even just stretched my hand out in front of me as far as I could reach, I would have made it.

Father, ever since that day, that story has said a lot about me and a lot to me; and not so much about my swimming skills, or lack there of. But it has forced me to think about what I expect of myself; I realized that I needed to expect more..of my expectations. Had I expected I could do it, I probably would have tried harder. But because from the very first moment the instructor said "Go", I was expecting that I wouldn't finish. So my expectations became my finish line and not the other side of the pool. In spite of what I was actually capable of, my actions simply played out my expectations. And before then and since then I have seen where my limited expectations have been played out many times in many areas of my life.

But now Lord that You are in my heart, I have seen what You can do through me. I have seen how Your strength is made perfect in my weakness, and Your grace has proven sufficient in my suffering. So now that I know more of You, I expect more of me. And even though the waters in which I swim are not always calm and the other side is all the way to Heaven, I won't stop swimming. And no more will I stop just short of my goal. I will "press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

Lord I am thankful for the grace the swimming instructor gave me that day. She said I was close enough to pass. And I am thankful for Your grace especially when I have fallen way short. I love You enough to keep swimming towards You, and I won't stop until I reach You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hate is no longer an Option

You know the story Jonah right? God told him to go to Nineveh to tell the people to repent; Jonah didn't like the Ninevites and didn't think they deserved the chance to change, so he went in the opposite direction; got on a ship; a storm came;  the men on the ship threw him overboard (at Jonah's request because he'd rather be tossed out to sea during a raging storm than to turn back towards Nineveh); then the great fish that God sent swallowed him up; he prayed in despair while in its belly for 3 days and nights; the fish spit him out onto the beach, back in the direction of Nineveh. Then God told him the second time to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent. Well, Jonah went, but he wasn't happy about it. I imagine he kicked every rock on the way to that great city.

You know it's easy to look down our noses onto the pages of the book of Jonah and think of how ashamed he should have been of himself. But I think instead we should let the same light of God's truth examine our hearts that examined Jonah's. Think about it for a moment. Where would it be that if God told you to go and share the Gospel you'd go with your lip poked out? For whom in your heart are you harboring hate such that it's impossible for them to see God's love through you? Wherever it is or whoever it is, we'd best ask God to deal with that right now, because you just may be their messenger God is preparing to carry the message of Jesus.

If you are a Christian, then here is a big, dry pill you and I both need to prepare ourselves to swallow...When we said yes to Jesus and surrendered our lives in repentance to God, there were things we had to give up. And one of those things is the right we feel like we have to hate people. (Told you it was big and dry...so let me say it again). As Christians, we are required to give up our right to hate people. Read this.. "Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:7 (NLT)

I know sometimes you may feel like you have the right to hate a certain person. Jonah did. The Ninevites were godless, cruel, violent people who for a long time had done his people wrong. And certainly if you told us what that person did or said about you, we'd probably not blame you for hating them. But you need to remember. No matter what they did, God still loves them. Just like no matter what you did, God still loves you.

Look, the Ninevites may not have deserved the chance to change. But the way God calculates things, it's not about what we deserve. It's about what He wanted to give. And what He gave was His grace. And the same grace He showed to Nineveh, and to me and you, is the same grace He wants to show through us to others.

I know, I know. It's tough...so let's pray about it...

Heavenly Father, I pray that You examine our hearts. If You find that we have been quick to hate and slow to love, then I ask that You forgive us. We don't deserve Your love, but I thank You for being gracious and looking past our faults and giving it to us anyway. Help us to do the same for others so that through us they may get to know You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Protector of My Soul

I was just reading in Psalm 121. It starts off with..."I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." (V 1&2). Ok, I got that. I can easily say a big Amen over that because I have certainly found that to be true.

But then it goes on to make several points about how God protects us. Verse 3 says He will not let us stumble. In verse 5&6 He stands as a protective shade from the sun and moon. Verse 7 God says He will preserve us from all evil. Then I had a big light bulb to pop on over my head, but it was in the shape of a question mark. I had an honest, but reverent question for the Lord. How is it that He shades and protects and preserves me, but I still feel the effects of evil? I still suffer from pain and heartache and trouble in my life just like anyone else. How does that line up with what I'm reading? But then it was like I heard the Lord say, "Keep reading dummy" (no He didn't say that). The end of verse 7 in the King James Version says..."He shall preserve thy soul." Ooooh! Ok.

See, it's like this. You as a person, are not a body with a soul. You are a soul with a body. Your soul is who you are, and your body is just the shell in which it lives. The bible refers to it as our tabernacle, or tent. If you don't believe that then I wish you could meet a student I had when I was teaching. He was in an accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. For all intents and purposes his shell of a body was lifeless, only sustained by a breathing machine piped into him through his trachea. It was hard to hear him talk, but when you did, you realized that he was very much alive on the inside. He was smart, and he had thoughts and feelings and ideas. He was a great kid, and I was inspired by him and his mother who sat in every class with him to take notes.

One day all of us will shed that shell, but the person we are, our soul, will live on. Of course if you know anything of the bible, you know it teaches that our soul will live forever, either in the presence of God in Heaven, or separated from Him in Hell. And I believe that.

So I understand better now that God will protect me by protecting my soul. Though I  get sick, feel pain, and get my feelings hurt, no one or no thing can touch my soul. Hallelujah!  I think of it like wearing a bullet proof vest. The bullets will still fly, and when they hit they will still hurt. But the bullets can't get deep inside to where I could be hurt the most. God is my protection.

I hope He is yours too. It would be nice if these words in Psalm 121 applied to everyone. But they only apply to those who apply it to themselves. God can only protect you if you believe in Him through His Son Jesus. We have a choice to put on that bullet-proof vest. And I've made my choice. Have you?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Soul is Thirsty

You ever notice that when you are really thirsty, there is nothing that will truly quench your thirst but water? I grew up on grape and red kool-aid. Of course I'm a born and bred country boy so I've pretty much got sweet tea pulsing through my veins. In elementary school I never really liked white milk, but I have emptied my share of chocolate milk cartons. I've drank enough Pepsi to buy the CEO of the company a new yacht. You're welcome Mr. or Mrs. Pepsi CEO. And don't even talk about back in the day the beer I have put away. (I think I just heard some of my buddies say "You got that right!"). And certainly all of them went down cold and tasty, but all of them left me thirsty.

It's a thirst we're biologically born with. Our bodies are 70% water. It plays such an important role in just about every body function. Digestion, maintaining our temperature, brain function, keeping our skin moisturized, and on and on. That's why God put a natural thirst in us that can only be quenched with water.

You know our souls have a natural thirst as well. It's a dryness inside that leaves us feeling empty and lifeless. Because we are also born with the sinful nature of our flesh, we go through life seeking out others ways to quench it. We sip on worldly pleasures, material possessions, mind-altering chemicals, and sweet temptations. And though they all will seem cold and tasty at the moment, without a doubt they will yet leave our souls thirsty.

If you haven't already found out for yourself, I hope that you take a chance to see that the living water of God Himself is the only thing that can truly and permanently satisfy our thirsty souls. King David said "O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1 NLT)  Jesus told the woman He met at the well "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4: 13-14 NLT)

Are you tired of being thirsty? Are you sick of always feeling unfulfilled and lacking? Maybe you've been trying to figure out what that feeling is. I was at that place at one point in my life too. I was tasting of all these other things and didn't understand why they didn't help. What I finally figured out by reading the Bible is that what I was feeling was spiritual dehydration. And the only fix is Jesus!      

Let's pray together.

Dear Lord, I pray that my thirsty friends out there will taste of You and see that You are good. Lord, we realize that at first You don't seem to taste good to us, because we've trained our palates on the kool-aid of worldly pleasures. But without a doubt, You are good FOR us. Draw my friends to Your well that they may receive the spiritual water so they will never thirst again. In Jesus name. Amen!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Butterflies Don't Crawl - A Morning Prayer

My Morning Prayer...

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. I pray You will help me to treat it like the unique and precious day that it is.

Lord, You brought a very interesting thought to mind. The thought is...BUTTERFLIES DON'T CRAWL. Now as You know I am certainly no butterfly expert, or any kind of expert really, but I feel pretty confident in my observation that butterflies..don't crawl. Now before they went through their transformation and lived as a caterpillar, crawling is all they ever did. But once they went through that change, they never ever would do that again, because butterflies don't crawl.

Father, You brought that to my thinking along with 2 Corinthians 5:17 where You say "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new CREATURE, old things have passed away, behold all things are become new". So that means that when I realized I needed a Saviour, and believed in Your Son Jesus as the only one who can save me, You didn't just change some things about me, You changed me. On the inside, You made me a whole new creature. You didn't just reshape my heart, You remade it into a totally new heart. It took some time to show through, but I can tell that I don't feel the same, I don't think the same, I don't see the world or people the same, I don't talk the same, and I don't love the same.

But!!!....the thing that You are still reminding me of this morning is...BUTTERFLIES DON'T CRAWL. That tells me then that if I am a whole new creature, I need to stop doing things that the old creature used to do. It's as silly and sad for me to still be doing some of the wrong things the old me used to do as it would be silly and sad to see a butterfly trying to crawl.

Thanks for being merciful and patient with me Lord. Thanks for changing my heart, and I pray You'll continue to change my ways. I don't need to crawl when I can walk, or walk when I can run, or run when I can fly. I want to make You proud because I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Purpose of Your Eyebrows

Fair warning. This is going to sound weird. But I realized it won't be the first of my posts where you have to stretch to grasp it, and likely not the last. So here we go.
One day while cutting grass in the heat and humidity, I had something of a discovery; an epiphany if you will. I realized...the purpose for our eyebrows. (Don't say I didn't warn you). Maybe you figured it out when you were two, but I never really thought about it before. I guess I just took those hairy brows for granted...until that day.
I was sweating like crazy, wiping sweat from my forehead, neck, even my earlobe. But I also noticed sweat was collecting at my eyebrows and dripping down to either side of my eyes. That's when it dawned on me.The purpose of our eyebrows is to keep sweat from rolling into our eyes. You ever thought about that? You thought they were just put there to raise one up and so you can look cool didn't you?
This is the really cool thing though. I think if we had the power to design a human, it would have been after we saw a person sweat before we realized we needed to design two hairy lines to catch the sweat. And then we would have probably nailed, stapled or hot-glued some plastic on our faces. But God fashioned the first eyebrows on the first man and woman before they ever had a nervous situation, a hot day, or grass to cut that would cause them to sweat. Before the first sweat bead ever formed, God already had formed the eyebrows ready to catch them. And He made them so they will grow and grow so we'll always have them when we need them.
Now that might seem silly to you, but to me it's yet one more piece of evidence that God exists aaaand....that He is awesome! And it is also another example showing that everything God created, He created for a purpose of His choosing. Like He did for your eyebrows. Like He did for you and me. And just because I didn't fully understand the real purpose for my eyebrows, does not mean God didn't have one. Similarly just because you might not fully understand God's purpose for creating you, doesn't mean He doesn't have one.
Psalm 139:14 reads "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well." So I will praise God for making my eyebrows the way He did. They came in real handy that day and many other days. And I will praise God for making me the way He did, because I know He made me just the way I needed to be to fulfill His purpose for my life. And you should praise God too for making you. Maybe you don't know what your purpose is. But while you wait for the Lord to reveal it or for you to accept it, just know He made you so you can fulfill it.
Let's pray...
Father, You are perfect in all your ways, and I know You didn't make any mistakes when You made me. Any flaws that show up in my life are in my own doing when I disobey Your word or step outside Your plan for my life. I praise You for creating me the way You did. I pray You give me wisdom and strength to walk in the purpose for which You formed me so that my life will give You glory. In Jesus name. Amen!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Just Because You Have the Right, Doesn't Make it Right

Let me ask you something. How do you handle your haters? You know who I mean. The people who don't like you, talk about you, treat you bad, out to get you. How do you handle your haters? When they talk about you, do you go and talk about them? When they post something ugly about you on FB, do you post something ugly about them on FB? When they run up and get all in your face, do you run up and get all in theirs? When they sneak and do devilish things behind your back, do you....ok you get the picture.
I want to share a little secret with you. And it must be a secret because you don't see that many people applying it. And really you won't learn it by watching tv or watching what others do. But here it is...our little secret...Just because you feel like you have the right to get back at someone doesn't mean it's right to get back at someone. Let me share an example from the Bible.
You know of King David right? As a young boy anointed by God to later replace King Saul; killed the Philistine giant Goliath in the Valley of Elah; invited to live in the palace by King Saul who treated him like a son; became a great warrior and the people loved him. Yeah, you know him. Well, when Saul started hearing the people cheer David's name more than his own, he grew very jealous. And as you probably know, jealousy is a strange yet powerful emotion that if not put in check will drive you to do things you never thought you'd do. It drove Saul to spend the rest of his life trying to kill David.
David had to run after several attempts on his life. In the Book of 1st Samuel Chapter 24, we read that one day King Saul was going around looking for David. He took a break and went into a cave to relieve himself. David and his men happened to be hiding in the back of that cave. Saul didn't even realize they were there. David's men told him to take advantage of that opportunity and kill Saul. How do you think David handled his hater? Had every right...right? Not only would everyone around David have understood why he did it, they would have cheered him on.
Well, the Bible says that David only cut off a little piece of cloth from Saul's cloak. As Saul exited the cave, David revealed himself by holding up that piece of cloth. This is what David said to Saul..."Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me." 1 Samuel 24:11 (NLT)
Look, let me give you a few pieces of advice. First of all, just because you feel like you should get back at someone doesn't mean you should. I mean come on, if you went and did everything you felt like you should do, me and everybody reading this post would have to put our pennies together to bail you out of jail. Second of all, our emotions are like dogs. It's one thing to let them in your house, but if you let them sleep on your couch, soon they'll be sleeping in your bed. You have to control your emotions and not let your emotions control you. And the power of God through the Holy Spirit helps us do that. Third, and most important of all, if God can show grace to us, then we certainly can show grace to others. We often want God to be generous with His grace when it comes to us, but stingy when it comes to others. And that ought not be so.
You never know. That unusual, unmerited display of love and forgiveness just might be what your haters need to point them to Jesus.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Can't Quit (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord...
Thank You for another day. As I prepare to go before Your people to share Your word, I pray that I go with Your strength and receive Your approval,
Father, it's amazing how I can look back over my life and see how You have been preparing me all of these years for where I am right now. I can see more clearly now the lessons You were teaching in what at first just seemed like regular life experiences. For example, I was thinking back to when I was in the 7th grade, and I decided to try out for our middle school football team. The only football I had played was backyard ball, and I certainly was not built for it at the time. My skinny frame was barely big enough to hold up the helmet and pads. But I wanted to be on the football team because many of my friends were trying out, and thought it would be fun to stay after school to hangout with them.
Well Lord, it didn't take long for my loosely held interest in playing football to unwind. Within the first week I got laughed at because my pads kept bouncing around on my narrow shoulders every time I ran; I got yelled at by the coach for sitting on my helmet; I almost passed out from getting too hot; I got stung by a bee on my stomach while doing up-downs; and I got creamed by the biggest 8th grader in the history of 8th grade while doing practice drills. And that Lord, was more than enough for me.
So, at the end of the week, I quit. I didn't do any dramatic exit; didn't make some grand speech and storm off the field. No, I just didn't go back to practice. And in the days that followed, I sort of felt bad because I didn't...feel bad. I thought it should have bothered me more that I didn't stick with it, or maybe I should feel some shame for being a quitter, or something. But I didn't. I realize now that it didn't bother me that I gave up on football, because I know that I wasn't made for football, and I really didn't care about it that much about it.
Lord, there have been other things I have thought about quitting to. I have to be honest with You, so I honestly admit that I have at times thought about quitting ministry. There are times that it gets so hard. Sometimes the challenge of balancing ministry and work is just too much. Sometimes it seems like it's not making a difference. Sometimes it feels like quitting is not only the easy option, but it feels like the only option. But, I realize that there is a difference between ministry and 7th grade football. Unlike football, I do have an interest in ministry. And not only do I have an interest in ministry, I know that I was made for ministry. There are a few gifts You have poured into me and countless life experiences You have shared with me, all to prepare me for..ministry.
You ordered my steps not to get me ready for success in the corporate world, not to become a celebrity, not to become great in any other field. I know that ministry is what You trained me and called me to do. And I know if I were doing anything else, I would be outside of Your will, and that's not where I want to be.
So Lord, no matter how I feel right now or how I might feel in the future, I won't give up. No matter what people say or do, I serve You. It didn't work out for me to become a football star, but that's ok. I belong to You, and what You say, I will do. I will follow Jesus as my example and heed the words of Hebrews 12:2 which says "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.". I know that You will finish what You started, and what You started in me You started a long time ago.
Lord, You're worth it all so I'll give it all, and its all because I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jesus Knows the Way, I Know I Trust Jesus, and That's All I Need to Know

When I was in high school, I was in the FFA. In case you didn't know, that's Future Farmers of America. (Did you just chuckle?) Hey, it's a great program, even if you're not planning a future in farming. Annnnywaaay. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the FFA national convention two years in Kansas City, Missouri. I want to give a quick shout out in memory of the late Mr. Mack Edwards. He was the FFA advisor, and he had a tremendous impact on my life.
The first year I went to the convention, I was super excited. It was my first time on a really long road trip. I had been to VA, DC and MD because I had brothers and sisters who lived up there, but this was the furthest I had flown from the coop. There are lots of things I can say about that trip and the experience, but for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on this.
I was thinking that to this day, I could not tell you how we got there. I mean I know the group of us was split between a van and Mr. Edwards' car. I remember what it was like riding cramped up in the back of that car listening to Mr. Edwards say "Dad dum this...Dad dum that". I remember the ride, but not the roads. I paid absolutely no attention to the highways we took or the turns we made. I guess I didn't concern myself on how to get to Kansas City.
In fact, when we were prepping for the trip, signing up and raising money, I never stopped for one moment to even ask Mr. Edwards if he knew how to get there. I can tell you the places we stopped and the sights we saw. I remember seeing Graceland and the Arch in St. Louis. I remember seeing the mighty Mississippi and touring a Kentucky horse farm. But I don't remember the route we took to get there. Now that I think about it, I guess I believed Mr. Edwards knew how to get there; I knew I trusted him; and that was all I needed to know. Which was a good thing because it allowed me focus on enjoying the trip.
Now as an adult I absolutely have to worry about those things when taking a trip. I now worry about the way to get there, what time we'll leave, what traffic will be like, and how much gas will cost. My daughters get to sit in the back and their only worry is "Are we there yet?". In some ways I envy them and that they can focus on nothing but enjoying the journey. Because they know I know the way, and they know they can trust me, and that's all they need to know.
Thinking about Mr. Edwards and that trip to Kansas City, I realize I need to trust God more on my journey through life. I have to admit that I sometimes get worried over the roads I will travel and the turns I will take. I get uptight when God doesn't show me the details of the route He has mapped out for me. I get anxious when I don't know where a road will lead or which turn to take. When instead I should be excited about the destination and enjoying the journey. I know I need to do a better job of living the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 which read "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
If this is something you need to work on too, then let's pray together. ...Lord build our trust so that we can leave the driving to You. We want to enjoy the ride. We want to get excited about the wonders of Your glory that we'll see along the way. Help us to get back the childlike faith we once had. Let not the cares of this life steal our joy as we travel to the next one. We know that You know the way, and we know that we can trust You, and that's all we need to know. In Jesus name. Amen.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Because I Said So!

Let me ask you something. How did it make you feel when you heard these words as a kid...."Because I said so!"?
Yeah, remember that? You were told do something, or to stop doing something, and uncontrollably that one, 3-letter word came bellowing out of your little mouth..."Why?!". And whether you asked that as a sign of defiance or you honestly and simply wanted to know, it may have been abruptly and firmly met in response with...(say it with me now) "Because I said so!". Well, I don't know about you, but it hurt my little feelings back then. I thought it was a cold, if not mean response to a valid question. Especially since it was coming from my parents who I thought loved their lil baby boy.
You know these days, not too many kids hear that response. Some how we have gotten to the point as parents that we feel like it's necessary that we reason with our children. That in order for them to fully obey us they must fully understand us. And even in some cases, I have seen parents in an attempt to explain themselves to their children, they end up negotiating with their children. But you know, the truth is that a child, or a teenager for that matter, is not going to always understand the reason behind all the things we tell them to do or not do.
Like when I was a boy, it really made no sense to me that I needed to make my bed up every morning. For Pete sake, I was going to mess it right back up that night. Or what was so wrong with me eating a candy bar for breakfast? I was hungry and it was what I had the taste for, so. Not to mention, I thought it was more efficient because with a candy bar I didn't have to mess up any dishes. After all the wrapper was the plate and my fingers were the fork, and I could lick both of those clean. So to those commands and others, I couldn't help but to ask "Why?!", which was quickly met with "Because I said so!". And guess what? I might not have had sense enough to not ask "why" the first time, but I certainly had sense enough not to ask it a second time. I might not be the smartest, but I am certainly no D-U-M-Y!
Of course now as an adult, and especially as a father, I truly understand all the "why's" behind the things my parents commanded me to do. Wisdom gained through living life and reading the Bible have helped me to understand that my parents weren't being tyrants. They were loving me and getting me to do what was best regardless if I understood why or not. And I love them and thank them for that.
And so it is with God. As His child now, there are areas where the things He says we are or are not to do makes perfect sense. But I must say there are some other areas where I just don't understand. And there were times early in my Christian life that I felt like I needed to understand it before I could obey it. But I have come to realize two things. 1-Believing in God means trusting in God, especially when I don't understand God. 2- God loves me and He is a good Father to me, and He would never command me to do something that is not in my best interest.
So if you have a relationship with God through His son Jesus, I encourage you to keep on striving to know God better through His word and prayer. And in the process of knowing Him better, you will start to understand the "why's" behind His commands. But in the mean time, I also encourage you to trust God and to display your faith by obeying Him. Let's especially heed John 14:15 which says "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Let's love God by doing what He says, if for no other reason than...because He said so!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Am I Sanctified Enough? (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. Thank You for my health. I pray for healing and strength for the many people I know who are sick. If You choose not to take it away, please give them a sign that You will see them through.
Father, I'm not sanctified enough am I? The word sanctification shows up in the Bible a lot, so it must be something that is very important to You. Growing up hearing the word sanctified seemed to only be applied to certain denominations. And it looked to me like it only meant rules about how one dressed or the things they could and could not do. But now that I understand a little better, I see that it is something that applies to all of us who call ourselves Christians.
So, since it is important to You, I have been doing a lot of thinking on it for a long time. When I first got saved, I looked it up and various books say it means to be consecrated. Ok, so that was just another word I had to look up. So I learned that consecrated means to be set apart for a holy purpose and a sacred use. When I ponder that definition, I still can't help but have that same questions come to mind..I'm not sanctified enough am I?
Lord, You remember, some time back I was in the middle of teaching bible study and came across the word consecrated. The word was not central to the lesson I was teaching, and I didn't plan to focus on it. But I think You could still see that big question mark hovering over my head. So You taught through me and out comes this explanation about what it means to be sanctified.
With Your leading, I asked, what was the purpose of the church we were sitting in. Those in bible study gave various answers. Then I asked wasn't that a perfectly good building that could be used for other things; move the pews and it is certainly big enough to hold a dance; leave the pews in and it's a great place to have bingo, can just call the numbers from the pulpit; perfectly good sound system to have a secular singing contest or even karaoke night; add a heater and few air jets and the baptismal would make a nice hot tub.
I remember the look on the people's faces like that was the most absurd thing they had ever heard, and rightly so. I and they understood that the church is consecrated and sanctified; set apart for a holy purpose and a sacred use. Even lukewarm Christians who only come on Christmas and Easter would think it to be appalling to do some of these other things in the church, because the church is not made for that.
Father, I realize that now that I am saved and bought with a price that was paid by Jesus' very life, I am now just as much Your temple as that church we were sitting in, if not more so. Yet, I sometimes allow what You have set apart to be sacred to be used for the profane; I have given place in what You call to be holy for the ungodly. I have allowed words out of my mouth that would never be tolerated in the church. I have set about activities that would never be allowed in the church. So, when I ask the question, am I sanctified enough, then I know the answer has to be... no.
Lord, I am glad that sanctification is not a one shot deal, else I may have missed it. But it's a process, and I know You are not through with me yet. Help me to stop thinking, saying and doing all of the things that are not pleasing to You. I know that I am not made for that. Sanctify me Lord so that I may be used for Your holy purpose.
I love You and I want to show You by how I live. In Jesus name. Amen.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Don't Be Like the One Who Missed the Last Boat from Galveston

I remember growing up and hearing my parents talk about Hurricane Hazel that hit in the 50's. That seemed to have been their high water mark for bad hurricanes to live through. For many people in Edgecombe County where I work and now live, theirs is Hurricane Floyd that hit in 1999. Just in the County, 8 people died, hundreds of homes were destroyed, and the whole Town of Princeville was flooded for days. Maybe yet for others it's Hurricane Katrina. Not only were New Orleans and surrounding areas decimated, and over 1800 people killed, but we had the awful opportunity to watch it all play out on national tv.
Though these and others may be the first we think of when we think of horrible hurricanes, none of these were the worst. That deadly distinction goes to the hurricane that hit Galveston Texas in 1900.
At that time, Galveston was the busiest port city in all of Texas. Located on the eastern Texas shore on the Gulf of Mexico, it was and still is the gateway of sea-faring trade from the gulf into Galveston Bay and connecting to major cities in Texas and westward. As important as it was, it was actually built on little more than a sandbar. And as the city experienced major growth in the mid to late 1800's, sand dunes, which provide a natural, protective barrier, were cut down to fill low areas for more development.
The city had been hit by hurricanes before, but nothing major and they always bounced back. I suppose need and greed were great motivators in pushing their citizens to keep rebuilding in such a precarious place. Of course there was constant talk about developing better hurricane protection. Some were even exploring plans for building a sea wall. But officials from the Galveston Weather Bureau said that it was not necessary because it was "impossible for a hurricane of significant strength to hit Galveston". Boy were they wrong.
On September 4, 1900 a tropical storm formed off the northern coast of Cuba. Weather officials in Galveston got word about it, and even talked about it in their weather reports. But they didn't like to use words like hurricane or tornado because they didn't want to panic the people. Most of them were expecting the storm to turn northeast and run along the east coast. But it didn't. By September 5th, the storm was crossing the Gulf and warnings were issued all along the coast. People in Galveston mostly ignored them because when they looked up they only saw partly cloudy skies.So, very few people left.
By early morning on September 8th the last boat had left Galveston. By that afternoon, a nameless hurricane (they didn't name them then) made landfall at what would now be classified as a Category 4. It brought 145 MPH winds and storm surge of over 15 feet (the highest point in Galveston was 8.7 ft above sea level). Over 3,600 structures were destroyed and between 6,000 and 12,000 people were killed making it not only the deadliest hurricane, but also the deadliest natural disaster in US history. So many people died they didn't have enough land area to bury them all. They tried burying them out at sea, but some started washing up on shore. So they piled them and burned them.
Horrible isn't it? I know! And on this side of that disaster, many of us are wondering "Why didn't they just leave when warned?!". It's just so painfully obvious that most if not all of those people could have been saved if they had just erred on the side of caution and left. I mean, unlike a tornado, hurricanes give you that time to pack some stuff and get out of Dodge (or Galveston). Now we have even more advance weather predicting technology, and people can know much further in advance of storms, and yet some still choose not to leave. Why? Do some feel like there is always more time to get out? Do some not believe the warnings or their source? Or do some hear, and think there may be some truth to it, but their rebellious, "I can ride this one out" spirit takes over?
Well I don't come to this post with the right answers, but I do come with a much more important question. Why do people die everyday without heeding the warning of what an eternity without Christ will be like? Ever since the gathering of believers and the founding of the Church, Christians from Peter and Paul all the way to me and some of you have been warning others of the devastation to come. That it will be a disaster that won't just destroy a city, it will destroy the world. But there is a boat that's big enough to carry as many as who will believe, and His name is Jesus. Romans 10:13 says "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Yet without a doubt, many, though warned, will remain to drown in the destruction to come. Why? Do some feel like there is always time to get out? I suppose so. Do some not believe the warnings or their source? I suppose so. Do some hear, and think there may be some truth to it, but their rebellious, "I can ride this one out" spirit takes over?...I suppose so.
Look, I know I can't warn the whole world. But I can at least warn the people I meet and the people who read my posts. And with the love of Christ I say to you, a storm is brewing! It's one that we can't weather. It won't just destroy your house and your possessions. It can destroy your very soul. I know when you look around in your life, it looks like there is only partly cloudy skies if not complete sunshine. It might seem like the world as it is will last forever, and you're wondering what's up with all the fuss. Let me tell you...It WILL all end. But you don't have to go out like that. You can be saved. Just read the bible. See what it says about Jesus. If you are moved in your heart to believe what is says about Him, then tell someone that you do. I mean come on, what have you got to lose if you do and I'm wrong? It's certainly a lot less than if you don't and I'm right. I beg of you, don't be like the ones who missed the last boat from Galveston.

Monday, July 11, 2016

When the Sands are Shifting, I Stand on THE Rock (A Morning Prayer)

Good morning Lord. Thank You for another day. Like every other day, this day is in Your hands, and if I get out of Your way, I know You can do great things with it.
Father, my girls are getting antsy as they can't wait to go on vacation. They love going to the beach, and even though I am not that big of a beach person, I guess I am excited too. The water is nice, but I probably have heard of one too many shark and jelly fish attacks to venture out too far in it.
One weird yet great feeling I do enjoy at the beach is simply standing at the edge of the water as the waves are coming in and going out, and feeling the sand being pulled out from under my feet. It is really a different kind of feeling to stand on that sand that feels so compacted, then to suddenly feel it moving out from under my feet. But, if the current is really strong, and it pulls out the sand faster than my legs can adjust, it can get a little scary.
Lord, life can be like that. I have seemingly had my feet firmly planted on different areas of my life, and felt confident with where I was. Throughout my years I have planted my feet on my job, family members, relationships, or even my own abilities. I was able to stand firmly on some of those things for years, to the point that I took for granted that they would always be there and never change. But just as the currents of life tend to do, they shift and things do change. A family member died, a relationship ended, a job changed, or my abilities fell short. It was at those times that I struggled to figure out what to do as my legs quickly gave way beneath me. My knees buckled under the weight of the questions ‘What happened?, why me?, and what now?’ Lord, I had to figure out what to do when the ground I’d been standing on started to move under my feet.
After many years and a few tears, You showed me Lord that I had to do the same thing I would do at the beach…I had to calm myself down and step on solid ground. Like on the beach, panicking makes it worse. So now Lord I try to remind myself that I am able to stand as long as You are able to hold me, and that is as long as You want to. So I try to focus less on the weakness in my legs and more on the strength in Your hands. Then I have to find my way to solid ground, which is Your Word. So I try to read Your word daily so I can get past what I see and stand on what You said. So now I can better enjoy life and the beach.
Lord, just like the unceasing waves at the beach, life still goes on. Sometimes it's gentle, sometimes it's rough, but it's ok because on Christ the solid rock I now stand. Thank You for strengthening my legs and for holding my hand. I love You. In Jesus name. Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2016

When Your Room to Run Has Run Out

You ever been running from something, and your room to run...ran out? And I don't mean it figuratively, I'll get to that in a minute. I mean you were literally running from something, and your room to run ran out. Well I have.

Once when I was about 12, I was helping my dad round up our cows because we were taking some of them to the market. The pasture was big and included both open land and wooded areas. Once we located where the cows were, we realized we had a good ways to lead them to get them to the corral. I wasn't scared to be out there in the open field with them, but I knew you had to be cautious, especially with the bulls.

Daddy told me to get behind and to one side of them, and he got on the other side. He instructed me to walk behind them slowly and make sure none turned out or turned back. Everything was going fine until this one young bull decided he wanted to turn out on my side. So I turned and trotted out to stay ahead of him to make sure he didn't get away from the group. He started to trot a little faster and so did I. We were basically running parallel with one another, looking like were in a race. Until...he obviously got fed up with me and turned to run straight at me. Well, I'm not sure if I can hang with running with the bulls like the Spaniards, but I am certain I can't hang with one running right towards me.

So I did a 180, dropped it in low, and put the pedal to the medal. I've never been fast anyway, but when you feel like life and limb are on the line, you'll surprise yourself, even while wearing coveralls and rubber boots. Even though I'm sure I set my own personal record that day, I could still hear his steps and snorts getting closer. I was looking for something to run behind, but between me and a few trees was a large thicket of briers. I was already bracing myself for how bad I would get torn up when I jumped in. Then I realized that he would probably jump in right behind me. So either bravery, logic or stupidity kicked in, and I turned around ready to face my pursuer (or meet my maker). I didn't know what else to do because my room to run had run out.

Ok now, here comes the figurative use of this story. You ever faced something you felt like you just couldn't face? You didn't know what else to do, so you decided not to face it, and you ran? You know we run in a lot of ways other than with our legs. Sometimes we run by ignoring things, avoiding things, even lying to ourselves about things. Sometimes these are problems that are no fault of our own. Sometimes they are matters of our own making.

Jacob in the bible was a runner too, both literally and figuratively. He had stolen the birthright from his brother Esau by tricking their dad Isaac. Esau was mad enough to kill him over it. So Jacob ran away. But there came a time that his room to run ran out. Not because Esau had caught up with him, though he was close. His room to run ran out because God caught up with him. While fleeing from his brother, Jacob found himself away from his family and alone one night after he crossed the Jabbok River. It was there that the Bible says "This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break." Genesis 32:24 (NLT). The man wrestling with Jacob was not his brother, it was God. That experience changed him for the rest of life, both physically and spiritually. Not only did he have to live with a limp from the wrestling, but his whole nature changed.

Sometimes, God works it out that our room to run runs out, not because He wants to back us into a corner to destroy us. He wants us to face our problems and give Him the chance to change us in the process. So ask yourself "Who or what am I running from?"; "What am I ignoring or avoiding?". What ever came to your mind, I hope that you see that running from a problem is not the same as fixing a problem. In fact, it could make it worse. So stop running; turn around and face it. And do so with the confidence of knowing that if you are a follower of Christ, you will never have to face it alone. Amen!

Oh, what happened with the bull chasing me? Oh yeah, when I finally got the nerve to stop running and turn around to face him, I realized he had gotten tired of fooling with me a long ways back. He had already turned around and went back to the herd. I think what I thought was him running behind me was the sound of my own heart beating and my panicky breathing. :)