Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Delegate!

Exodus 18:14 And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?

Notice the phrasing. "What he did to the people." And "what are you doing to the people?"
In other words, your being a workaholic and taking everything on your shoulders isn't doing these people any favors! You are doing more harm than good to these people.

*You are diminishing your own abilities to minister to them. You are wearing yourself out.
*Many of them are capable of doing some of this work, but you are robbing them of the blessing of serving.
*You are training them to just let you do it.

In short, delegate dude!

Monday, January 16, 2017

What is that in your hand?

Ex 4:2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.

So, I ask you my friend, what is that in your hand?

It's a phone, isn't it? Aren't I the Mensa candidate?

You know, Moses would have had a smart phone in his hand back in the day if they were available? I mean, the other hand, the one not holding his walking stick/cattle prod/weapon. The phone would have complicated things in his life, as it does yours, but it sure would have made his time in the desert more interesting. That is, if he would have had at least a 3G network and a nearby tower. He might have streamed "The Ten Commandments." That would have given him some ideas on how to get across the Red Sea with a bunch of whiners in tow.

But what he had was a rod, and God used that. When God calls, He often wants us to use that which we have handy. For Samson it was a jawbone of a donkey. For David, a sling, and later, a harp. For Paul, it was a pen. For Patrick, it was a clover.

But you have a phone. Can God use that? Good night! For what you pay per month for that thing, it better be used for something productive!

Now, Moses's staff could become a serpent, or it could open the Red Sea, or send forth a stream from a rock. Once Moses recognized that he had something in His hand God wanted to use, it became quite the useful tool.

Back to your phone. Instead of it being an escape, why not allow God to use it in some marvellous ways?

1. Encourage others on social media.
2. Write a blog! Hey, If I can do it...
3. Study your Bible.
4. Keep a journal.
5. Check in on FB when you are at church.
6. Use a soul-winning App to lead someone to Christ.
7. Play some encouraging gospel music to lift your spirit.
8. Set your alarm to remind you it is time to head to church.
9. Tweet out your victories.
10. Phone a godly friend when you are down and ask for prayer and words of wisdom.
11. Call up a positive podcast.
12. Keep a prayer list.

Think of what Paul could have accomplished with a cell phone!

What is that in your hand? God can use that thing in mighty ways when you realize it is His anyway.

Hashtag: PutThatThingToSomeGoodUse

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Holy Ground

Please read the 3rd chapter of Exodus before proceeding. 

Moses's life seemed to be on hold at this season, but God was working behind the scenes. Now He will do something unlike anything that had ever happened. The burning bush experience. 

Moses was doing what he could, where he could, when he could and hoe he could. I am sure he was just missing the "why." He wasn't idle in exile. He was producing while God was preparing. 

God had Moses in a place where He could have his full attention. 

In the palace, things would have been complicated.
Among the throngs of Jews he would be distracted. 
But here! This is a place where God's sovereignty is put on glorious display. 

No doubt, between the ages of 40-80, Moses thought he was a washed up, has been. He was a prince, he was a power, he was an influence. But now, in his lonely place, he is unable to be a leader, except for sheep. Unable to effect change, except the next bleak pasture. But look what God had in store! 

This area was as forbidding as you can imagine. It wasn't the desert, it was the BACK SIDE of the desert. Whoa!

God shows up in the most unexpected of places and in the most unusual ways. 

Moses sees a bush burning. No big deal. It's the desert. Plants are dry, bushes burn. 

But, 1: the bush isn't consumed. 2: it speaks to him! 

"Moses, take off your shoes, you are on holy ground." Holy ground? The desert near Horeb? This is the last place a person might expect God to show up, and an unlikely place to be called holy.

God's presence makes a place holy. 

I led my son to the Lord in Sam's Town Casino, Laughlin, NV. Boom! A gambling Mecca is sanctified. 

I led five wanna be gang-bangers to the Lord on a curb next to a dumpster in Posada del Sol, gangland, El Centro, CA. Yes! The barrio is made holy. 

In the hood, where folks of my color are not welcome after dark, and not welcome much before dark, with catfish hanging in a tree ready for skinning, and an ancient black gentleman rocking on his porch, my pastor and I were asked to sing an old spiritual. The Spirit of the Lord sanctified that porch as we sang, "When I'm growing old and feeble, stand by me, When my life becomes a burden, And I'm nearing chilly Jordan, Oh, Thou lily of the valley, stand by me.  I was ready to take my shoes off. 

So yeah, God's presence in Horeb's desert, or, in your desert makes that place holy ground. 

Moses did something that we might miss if we are not careful. He turned aside to see this interesting phenomenon. He might have just turned up his Pandora and moved the sheep down the trail, but he paused.

We miss so much because we really aren't paying attention. The TV is on, the radio is playing, people are chattering, activity is ongoing. The din of society can be maddening to the senses and muffling to the soul. 

But God has something to say to each of us, though we are either on sensory overload or we are out like a light bulb. How Important that you allow yourself a regular "God time" away from the cacophony of this culture. If we continue to ignore the still small voice of the Lord when winds and fires and storms are competing for our attention, we may be a candidate for our own visit to a desert place for a personal tete-a-tete with a fiery bush. 

This desert encounter Moses experienced changed the world. Without overstating, could I say that each and every encounter with God is possibly, probably a world changer also? It could and should change your world. It may change the world of others also: that person you reach with the gospel, that friend you touch with God's love, your spouse you impress by your changed attitude. 

So, sometime soon, take off your shoes, encounter holiness,  hear God's instruction and spend the rest of your years becoming all that God wants you to be. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Goodbye

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 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. Hebrews 12:1-2

Almost everybody I have heard or read were so glad to have 2016 over with. Perhaps my memory is bad, but I thought '16 was a pretty good year, for me, anyway. Of course, there were many things I would not have chosen: Illness, setbacks, national and international upheaval, political craziness, upset apple carts, stymied agendas. But God was sovereign. 

I am convinced that if the events, good and bad, of 2017 were all-at-once revealed to us at the outset of the year, none of us would opt to proceed. 

That's where an understanding of God's sovereignty and a dependence on His grace come in. 

Most of us choose to proceed, hoping against hope that it'll surely be a better year. But, as experience tells us, the tendency is that things only get more complex, the challenges only increase, our stamina abates and the year outpaces the previous year for trial and tribulation. 


It is better for us to keep our eyes on the prize, run our assigned race with patience, savor the victories and trust through the difficulties. Ultimately, we should understand that God's got this and we need simply cooperate with His agenda and enjoy the journey. 

I leave you with this wise quote from J. Vernon McGee: Someday, when in the presence of our Savior, we will thank Him for every burden, every trial, and every heartache. 

Amen! 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Business/Sales luncheon.

Read Proverbs 23:1-3

This power lunch that the writer indicates is one in which a powerful person (the spider) is inviting an unsuspecting innocent (the fly) into his web to advance his self serving agenda. The host is generally a master in the art of manipulation.

I have been to many of these coffees/buffets/brunches/teas/dinners/lunches/dinners.

They usually end with declarations like: "Welcome to the wonderful world of Amway." Sometimes, "Here's the paperwork for you to sign." Or, more commonly, "How much can we put you down for?"

The writer assumes that these meals are sometimes unavoidable, so he gives instructions how to make it through the meal unscathed.

1. Be mindful that he who pays the check will have an agenda. There are no free lunches. Use wisdom and descretion at this meal. Be watchful for for their angle.  "Consider diligently."vs 1

2. He expects that you will be beholden to him.  If you don't buy in, there will be $24.95 worth of guilt, and he knows that normal people feel this pressure. Imagine, you stand to give up $$$thousands to pay off the guilt of this one meal! It is a great investment for his business. "For they are deceitful meat." vs 3

3. Use self-control! He figures the more you eat, the more control he will have over you. You have heard the term, "eating yourself stupid?" This applies. "Put a knife to your throat." vs 2. This seems extreme, but if you have ever bought a time share, you will chuckle in agreement, "I should have cut my throat than to get into this!"

Consider that this meal is going to cost you more than it costs him, otherwise there would have been no invite. The successful and powerful got where they are by conniving, convincing and cajoling. Stand firm, thank them for their kindness and let them know your service is to the Lord, through the local church and that your hard-earned money is going to support your family and the Lord's work. And, NO! your organization is not the Lord's work. Pyramid! I mean, Period.

The menu will most likely consist of:
Smooth tongue
Twisted arm
Bent ear
Squeezed heart
Punched kidney
Pulled leg
Seared conscience

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

LOSS

LOSS – I am struck that Christmas, to many people, is underscored by an intense sense of loss.

More people than you can imagine are emotionally distraught during the holidays, because the festivities remind them that someone is missing. They realize that this is the first Christmas without their loved one. Or the anniversary of the loss of a spouse, or a parent or a child.

Christmas joy and celebration in the lives of others, emphasized by the music in the restaurants and stores and malls, by the decorations, by the wall-to-wall commercials and TV and movie specials, by the church programs and carols and sermons, is the turn of the knife in the wound for many.

Kudos to those who have this immense sense of loss during the holiday season, yet smile through the tears. They give to others, even though something was taken from them. They say “Merry Christmas” though their heart says “Bah Humbug!”

It is my guess that, for those over the age of 40, at least 80% of people can strongly relate to this malady. (I made that statistic up, but I challenge you to disprove it.) Christmas season holds a certain amount of sadness for them because of loss.

I know, I can relate. I am not a fan of Christmas. Out of duty to the church and a sense of responsibility to my family and my people, I promote the programs, deck the halls, dawn the gay apparel, preach the advent messages, sing the carols, exchange the gifts, and….accept a Christmas bonus.J  I do it with a somewhat genuine smile, and really, really try to mean it.

But something worth everything was taken from me at Christmas time almost three decades ago. The apple of my eye has never truly been returned to me. My pearl was cast to the swine and trampled underfoot. I have never recovered. I just function. Sometimes at a surprisingly high level, to my dismay.  I suffered loss as much as most anyone I know. Christmas is a Bowie knife sized dagger in my tender section.

But, you know what I found out a long time ago? God’s got this!!! Though He has no obligation to any of us, He will never be a debtor to any person. 

You see, the world had lost its way. God had lost His creation. It was stolen by a slithering serpent, whispering sadistic lies, impugning His sterling character. 

All of His children were lost. They were lost to lust, lost to lasciviousness, lost to lies and lying.

So, for the very first Christmas, 2000 years ago (but planned many millennia prior) God turned Christmas into a time of gain – to more than offset the loss.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Here it is, my holiday challenged friend. For your loss, God has given you:

*His Son! I lost my son 27 years ago at Christmas. But God gave me His own…at Christmas.

*Everlasting life! I effectively lost my life, that is, my living, my ministry. He gave true, abundant, eternal life, by virtue of a virgin born Son.

*Grace!!! What we all need, to overcome all loss, is grace. Abounding grace. Sustaining grace. Manifold grace. True grace. It is grace that carries us through what we cannot do…things like Christmastime.


Here’s what the apostle John (1:14) says in this fantastic Christmas verse: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bah Humbug! Should We Celebrate the Nativity?

“Humbug” is “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people.” 

That may give you a whole new perspective on Ebenezer Scrooge’s pooh-poohing of Christmas. He thought Christmas celebration was contrived to deceive people. 

Considering all the trappings that have evolved around Christmas, he might have been onto something.

Semi-related side note for the fun of it:  Here’s a thing of intrigue… Question - what do the following songs have in common? Winter Wonderland, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasing…), Sleigh Ride, Let it Snow, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Silver Bells, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, and, There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays? (Answer at the end)

There are a lot of Christians who oppose Christmas celebration because of its pagan and commercial connotations. (i.e., The Dec. 25th birth of Tammuz, the Baal tree of Jeremiah 10:10, Santa Clause, with his Godlike qualities of omniscience and omnipresence, the extreme accompanying commercialism, etc.) Even the name “Christmas” is somewhat dubious. People say, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” I say, take “mas” out of Christmas!

These are usually the same people who don’t like Easter. They aren’t just the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Armstrongites (WWCOG). In colonial America, for example, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in certain places. There are believers whom you know in your churches that are clenching their teeth throughout the holidays because they don’t subscribe to the celebration of Christ’s birth, especially in late December.

But, the question remains, should the nativity of Christ be celebrated? There are those who would argue that the emphasis in the Bible is not on His birth, but on His death and resurrection. Yes, the Passion of our Lord is the foundation of the Gospel, but is the nativity celebration forbidden in Scripture? Is it encouraged by word or example in the Bible?

1.     The Prophets were excited about the birth of the Messiah. They foretold it with great expectation. Isa 7:14, 9:6 and Micah 5:2 are classic examples. 

2.     Simeon lived to see the baby Jesus. Once he celebrated the newborn King’s arrival, his life’s desire was complete and he had no more reason to live on this earth. Luke 2:25, etc. 

3.     Anna prayed and served God in the temple – longing only for the arrival of God on earth. Luke 2:36-38 

4.     The Angels were pretty pumped about the incarnation. You will have a hard time finding as much angelic hubbub as you witness in the Christmas story. They announced, they instructed, they protected, they gathered, they proclaimed and then they warned. No, they didn’t sing, as far as we know. 

5.     The Shepherds were anything but disinterested concerning God’s Gift of a Savior. Just try getting a shepherd to forsake his flock to attend a birth! They did. Luke 2:8-20 

6.     Wise Men from hundreds of miles away had been studying this possibility for generations and convened a caravan to traverse entire nations to celebrate Christmas by the giving of costly gifts. 

7.     Christmas was so special to Mary that she wrote a song! (it wasn’t “Mary did you Know?”) Luke 1:46-55 

8.     Herod, the original Christmas Grinch, was also moved by this heaven-sent, earth-changing episode, but not in a good way. He was not at all enthralled by the prospect of a Bethlehem Manger scene on the courthouse lawn. Christmas literally drove him mad! 

9.     Paul was not one to discount the birth of Christ. Galatians 4:4 

10.  God Himself gifted us with the world’s favorite Bible verse…and it is a Christmas verse. John 3:16   (be sure to read verse 17 also)

No, the Lord was not born on December 25th. Go ahead and have your celebration in September or October, when He was probably born…but people will think you are crazy and it will not help your testimony when you try witnessing to them.

No, the evergreen tree was not part of the d├ęcor in the original manger scene. It could be argued that it is a pagan symbol, or that Martin Luther introduced the lighted tree as an object lesson about Christ being the Light of the world. Do what you want with that.

Yes, gift giving regarding the nativity does have biblical roots per the wise men!

Yes, celebration of the coming of the Lord to be born of a virgin, live an exemplary and spotless life, die a substitutionary death and victoriously rise from the dead is honorable and not to be discouraged.

If He had not been born as prophesied, we would not have the opportunity to believe in Him and have everlasting life.

So, yule logs, Kris Kringle, mistletoe, holly, sleigh bells, credit card debt, honey-cured spiral hams and all the other trappings aside, by all means, celebrate the birth of Christ and knock off the “bah humbug!”


Answer to our earlier question: The composers or lyricists of these songs were Jewish!