JOINED AT THE HEART.052418

What happens when you are really in a bind, you don’t know what to do, and there’s actually nowhere to go?  I guess the right answer is to do what you learned in church, to do what your momma and your daddy taught you about God.  But many questions are subject to interpretation.  There are a lot of gray areas.  In the meantime there’s a lot about what you believe, and who you can trust: God, the church, people who claim to be Christians, and those who really ACT like it.  Often there is nothing you can do except to lean on God, and hope to goodness that all that stuff you said you believed is really true.

So what do you really believe?  Well, I believe in leaning on God, trusting in Him.  Like Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding . . .”  (Proverbs 3:5-6) Like the story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, where they said, right before they were thrown into the fiery furnace, “The God we serve will deliver us, . . . but even if He doesn’t, we’re not going to bow down and worship the image you made.” (Daniel 3:1-30)  Talk about leaning on Jesus.  Whoa!  To get to that level of trust in God, you have to spend a lot of time getting connected to Him, joined at the heart, so when the time comes you’ll be ready.

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PRAYING FOR OTHER PEOPLE.042518

Latin Teenager Praying

My relationship, my spiritual relationship, with God is based on the six great themes of the Bible: love, humility, gratitude, trust, obedience and service; all of which are founded on the underlying concept of surrender.  All the themes, one way or another, are brought to life, they’re empowered by surrender, to God and to other people.  In a supernatural way, this is the attitude of Jesus that flows through us when we surrender to Him.

When I pray, I usually begin by ‘praying through the themes’ one at a time, as they relate to me and my relationship with God.  Every time, I see something new about how I should love God; humble myself before Him; be thankful for all the ways He blesses me; renew my trust in Him as it relates to all my other relationships, my cares and my troubles; confess my failures in obedience and renew my commitment to do His will and not mine, to have His attitude and not mine; and as my act of service, to deny myself, die to myself, and follow (surrender to) Him; so He can use me for His purposes in this world today.

So I was praying for my son today, my youngest son Ian, who is a freshman in college and is going through some major, life-changing events and decisions that will affect him for the rest of his life.  It is a challenging time, but a truly exhilarating time, to be alive in his world.  He has asked me to pray for him, which I am always happy to do.  I do pray for him every day anyway.  Today, I started a new practice, of praying for Ian the way I pray for myself.  It opens all kinds of new doors for me to think about in praying for him; not just about what he should do or not do; but also about all his relationships, with God and with others, that I can meditate on and consider how God is moving and working in Ian’s life and the lives of those around him. (They may need a little prayer too!)

There’s a limited amount of time to ‘really’ pray (like this) for all the people that are close to me; so I think I’ll need to spend more of my ‘unstructured’ time (formerly known as leisure time, ha!), when I’m driving down the road, or waiting in the doctor’s office, or waiting for an appointment, praying in this way for others.  God only knows what the results might be, for them and for me.

 

FORGIVENESS (ADVENTURES IN JESUS).042218

hands of a prisoner behind barsI spent last weekend in prison.  I was a member of a team from the Jubilee Prison Ministry, that goes in to prisons for three days to talk to the inmates about Jesus and what it means to be a Christian.  While I was there, I gave a talk on forgiveness: In the middle of the talk I gave a personal testimony from life as it relates to forgiveness.  My testimony went like this:

When I was a young man, about 20, I met my future wife and I asked her to marry me.  She said, ‘Yes!’  Neither one of us had any money, but we had love, so it was OK.  Pretty quick we had two sons, and then one daughter.  My wife and I grew up together while raising our kids.  Finally, I got a better job.  I was making $125.00 per day.  We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.  Oh, I had to spend a lot of time working away from home; three weeks away and then one weekend at home.  There was a lot of stress, but we both thought it was worth the sacrifice.  This sort of work went on, for 6 or 7 years, over and over, till one day, when we’d been married about 10 years, I found out my wife was having an affair with another man.  At the time our kids were 10, 9 and 3.  At the time I thought it was all her fault, but I’d forgive her and forget about it, if she’d just come back.  Well, eventually she came back, after a long separation.  But you know what’s crazy?  Throughout that hard time in our lives, I never even considered all the way I contributed to that event.  Like never being home when my wife needed help.  Or when she wasn’t feeling good, or the kids were sick, and she had to deal with it all by herself. Probably the worst is that after she got the kids down, when she finally went to bed, she was all alone.  She needed someone to love her, to hold her; to be with her.  Here I am 30 or 40 years later, and I’m just now realizing all the ways I failed to love, honor and cherish my wife; all the ways I wronged her; all the ways I harmed her.  I’m a sinner and I desperately need forgiveness. Continue reading

Have You Made Peace with God? 040518

All my life I’ve struggled with how to start a conversation with someone about their relationship with God.  I’ve longed to find some way to get started without offending them or making them mad, or driving them away.  It’s a very personal subject, one that many people are uncomfortable talking about.

One time 3-4 years ago, I had a friend named Evelyn, who was dying of pancreatic cancer.  She worked part-time for the same guy I worked for.  She was about my age.  She was in the hospital, fading fast and I went to visit her.  I didn’t know whether she had a relationship with God or not, but I wanted to talk to her about it.  I didn’t know how to start or what to say.

I don’t know if it mattered, but I took her a prayer blanket that had been made by ladies at our church.  They even prayed over it and anointed it with oil, especially for her.  Now that I think about it, maybe God used that prayer blanket to touch Evelyn and me both.

Anyway, I was standing there beside her bed, trying to think of something to say, when God says, “Ask her if she’s made peace with God.”

So I did.  Right out of the blue I said, “Well, have you made peace with God?”

She thought about it a minute and said the most amazing thing, “Since my husband died about 9 years ago, me and God haven’t had much to say to each other.”

After I thought a second I said, “Evelyn, God loves you; and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or failed to do, He forgives you; and all you have to do to get right with God is to trust Him and accept His forgiveness.”  She said she’d think about it.

She must have done it though, because after she died, her daughter told me that after we talked, she was at peace, happy and thankful; free of all the fear and anxiety she’d had before.

Praise the Lord!

THE FUNDAMENTALS.040318

Life is a lot like baseball.  In order to play you just need to understand a few rules, get down the fundamentals, and then practice.  How much you practice has a big bearing on how you get along.  A coach in Texas used to make his players follow the “Rule of 100″.  Every player had to throw 100, catch 100, hit 100 balls EVERY day.  Sounds like work. But he produced some great baseball players and some great teams.  Went to the State championship a lot of times.

Life in Jesus is like that.  To be a follower of Jesus you just need to learn the rules, get down the fundamentals and then practice. What are the fundamentals?  Talk to God, listen to God; trust God and obey Him. EVERY day.  Pretty simple, but not easy.  Takes practice.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.  The reward is that you develop a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe and He comes to live in your own private heart.  Life just can’t get any better than that.Like I said.  It’s like baseball.  When you get on a losing streak, what do all good coaches recommend?  Get back to the fundamentals.  When you stick with the fundamentals, it’ll turn your game and your life around. Thanks Tex

 

DO WHAT YOU KNOW IS RIGHT.031618

KIDS PLAYING.031618

In Romans 1:19-20, Paul talks about how God has put the knowledge of Himself in men’s hearts; to the point that they cannot deny that God exists.  They are without excuse.  They will have to acknowledge Jesus as Lord on ‘that Day’.  Reminds me of times when my kids were young, maybe 10 and up, what church people used to call the ‘age of accountability’, when kids really did know right from wrong.

Once in a while, they’d get to go skating, or to the mall for a party, where they’d be largely unsupervised for an hour or two; they’d even have a little spending money to buy a coke or some popcorn, or play a video game.  Kinda exciting, get a little buzz doing new things they hadn’t done much; meet kids they didn’t know.  There would be adults around, but not enough for close supervision; like at the movies, or at the swimming pool, or at the park.

 

I’d usually tell them, “I just want you to do what you know is right.”  It was positively amazing.  I think God must’ve put those words in my mouth.  Sometimes they would even groan.  They’d say, “Don’t saaaay that; now we can’t have any fun.”  Continue reading

CUT TO THE HEART: 121917

005-peter-john-arrested

In Acts 5, it tells the story of what happened after Pentecost in Jerusalem.  It says, beginning in v12, “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; . . . And believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, so much that they brought the sick into the streets, and . . . they were healed every one.

Then the high priest rose up, and put them in prison. But the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors at night and let them out, and said, “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.  But when the high priest figured out what happened, he sent soldiers to the temple to get them.  And they brought them before the council: and the high priest asked them, “Didn’t we tell you that you not to teach about Jesus? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

Then Peter answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men. God raised up Jesus, whom you crucified. Continue reading