Nonetheless, the Lord is waiting to be merciful to you, and will rise to show you compassion. The Lord is a God of justice; happy are all who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18
Waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted so I can spend more than a half an hour with my mother. . .
Waiting for a cure for coronavirus, cancer, and other devastating illnesses. . .
Waiting for peace in a world riddled with dissension and despair. . .
There are plenty of days where I feel like I’m just waiting around. Waiting for things to happen that are not in my control. Some days the issues might be universally perceived-- like the need for a coronavirus vaccine; some days they’re limited to my personal sphere: will the dishwasher repairman ever get here?? Either way, if I’m not careful, I can become focused on what I perceive to be lacking in my life and what’s missing from the moment. I can become fixated on absence rather than abundance.
The reading today from Isaiah is one that makes me smile because it reminds me that you and I aren’t the only ones who wait! God is waiting, too—waiting for me, for you, for all of us—to turn our anxious or dissatisfied selves toward God’s face. God is waiting to shower us with an abundance of comfort that will soothe us in our pain! God is waiting to lavish mercy and tender care upon us during the chaos and the struggle! God is waiting, to put it simply, to help us in our waiting!
In this season of Advent, as we find ourselves once again waiting with anticipation and hope for the Infant King to be born anew in our hearts, may we remember that God is ready to join us in all of our times of waiting. There is no need for us to ever wait for anything all alone.
PRAYER: Holy God, we thank you that we always have the opportunity to wait in the calm of your presence. Help us to remember to turn to you to find peace in every circumstance. In the name of our Coming King, Amen.
LOVE IS INDISPENSABLE
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 15:11-32
The Bible has always been a love story for me. Our creation and the birth of a Savior is to me the result of God’s wanting a relationship with us…a love relationship that desires courage, compassion and connection. And when we think about these three, it comes to mind that any/every love relationship needs them as a firm, lasting foundation.
Courage is often found when forgiveness is necessary. I found myself wondering if I would reflect the behavior of the father….would I have the courage to forgive to the depth he did? Forgiveness often means something has to die….a hurt, a misunderstanding, anger….so that forgiveness can take its place. This is the sign of courage….the love of the father for his son, and his courage to forgive restored their relationship. Are we capable of this as often as we should be?
Compassion is found in sharing with someone when fear, or suffering, or misfortune shows up and there is a strong need to end the suffering. This is where I often find my faith takes a seat. It doesn’t solve my problems or take away occasional sorrow. But it does sit with me. It is there in comfort. Knowing my God is always there means I am never alone.
Connection in a relationship has been defined as “an energy between people that is felt when they feel heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment and when they derive sustenance and strength from their relationship.” How wonderful if we could feel this in every relationship we develop! The depth of our relationship with our God is often dependent on how many times we connect and reconnect. Connections are made through worship, through Bible studies, through mission projects, through anything that confirms our relationship with God.
This Advent season may be the perfect opportunity to deepen our connections with others and with our Savior….to work on courage, compassion and connection…to remember the night when a birth changed our lives forever.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as we experience this Advent season with feelings of wonder and gratefulness for the love given to us through the birth of your Son, watch over us as we continue to grow closer to you and to those you’ve placed in our lives as reminders that you are God and God alone. In Christ’s name we pray. Ame
Jesus is the “hope of all the earth”. Beyond all the material “everything” Jesus is the ultimate hope because His birth brought the ultimate gift – the promise of eternal life in heaven. There is no other gift that can possibly surpass that!
In this time of preparation, let us take some time to remember what the true focus of this season is meant to be. A time of preparation for the coming of Christ. Not just His coming over two thousand years ago; but a time of preparation for the coming of Christ again. How do we do that? The answer lies in the lyrics of the hymn. We can seek release from our sins and fears. We can seek rest in Jesus. We can allow the Spirit of Christ to reign within us. Surely, we can take a few minutes at the beginning of each day and another few minutes before ending each day to spend with God. We can read a quick devotional or take a moment to recall three things for which we are thankful for from that day. These simple things will allow God to do good things in your life and give Him glory.
PRAYER: Precious Jesus, You are the hope of all the earth. Please release us from our sins and fears. Help us to find our rest with you. Live in us forever and help us to prepare for your coming with hope in our hearts. Amen
THANKFUL FOR ALL THINGS?
Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Lord, how can I thank You when I’m single and want to be married?”
“Dear God, how can I ever be happy in this dead-end job?”
“God, how can I thank You for broken plumbing in our bathroom when we don’t have the money to make repairs?”
“Lord, how can I be happy in the middle of this pandemic?”
How can we have thankful, contented hearts when the circumstances in our lives are not what we want or planned and when we don’t have the power to change them?
So, what is the alternative? If we aren’t thankful, we become bitter and angry with God because we think He is not providing what we “rightfully” deserve. If we aren’t content, we become rebellious and complaining: after all, He gives our friends everything they pray for – why doesn’t He do that for us?
When we think that way, we are saying that God is not trustworthy and that He does not desire our good. The Bible tells us the exact opposite. His Word says that God wants good for us. God is intimately involved with us and He works in every part of our lives. We are told in Romans 8:28: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
We have so much to praise Him for…The same God who formed the world in six days knows every hair on our heads and has our names inscribed on the palms of His hands. Brothers and Sisters, our names are tattooed on God’s hands! How much more special can we be than that! And, if that isn’t enough…God sent His only Son to die for us so that we can spend eternity with Him.
God’s love for His people is not determined by our circumstances. His love is steadfast. No matter what happens in our lives (including the Coronavirus), we can, and we must give Him thanks for His love toward us.
Let us pray: Loving God, we thank You right now for your constant care for us. Help us not to complain but to be aware of your blessings to us every day. Amen.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”
Votes are still being counted and recounts are being called for. Some places will not officially say they have finished counting votes for several more days. With that in mind, let’s look at the bigger picture. Many government employees haven’t changed. They continue to go to work and do their jobs, Monday through Friday, week after week, year after year. They are the core of our government.
God is bigger than the entirety of our government. God calls us to love one another. Too many words of divisiveness have been spoken by too many people. Right now, we need a time of healing. Right now, we need a time of peace and recognizing that we have more in common than differences. Right now, we need to decide that peace is always in our best interest.
One person may be important, but that one person is not the entirety of our government. God has given us the best possible instructions to be able to live our best possible lives. Right now, more than ever, we need to follow God’s instructions to live in peace with each other through love and understanding. That is much more important to all of us, to our collective well-being than anything else.
Let us pray: Oh Lord! We need your help! Our country needs your help! Please bless each person in this country with your love and peace. Please bless each person in this country with the sure knowledge that the best way to provide happiness for themselves is by living lovingly and peacefully with everyone else. Amen.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God.
"We have been living through unprecedented times." I believe I have heard that said about everything from health issues to political issues many times in the past few weeks. The next news story has me gasping for breath. As a Christian I find that prayer is often all I can do when faced with things that does not go my way. Just as often my reaction is a loss for words adequate to the task. That's when this scripture from Roman gives me comfort and strength.
Many times, we are faced with a dilemma that defies our ability to communicate. I go to God and just find no adequate language to tell God what I'm feeling. That's when I can be still and quiet in the presence of the Lord, knowing that the Holy Spirit will intercede for me, molding my emotions and thoughts into a form of communication that God understands. Even my wordless groans are translated by the Spirit.
No problem is too big for our awesome God. Even when it seems we can't imagine what to do or what to say, the Holy Spirit speaks on our behalf. We may not know how this all works or even what to ask of God, but the Holy Spirit goes into overdrive and shouts our fears and our needs in God's ears. On days when I've reached the end of my rope and even the knot I tied is slipping, I can depend on these words of Scripture to carry me through. This is news I can use. How about you?
Pray with me: Lord, when I don't know what to say, I will ask the Holy Spirit to speak for me. Thank you for that promise. Amen.
"The Tough Side of Jesus"
The love of Jesus has been preached and proclaimed throughout the earth ever since the days of the apostles. This is as it should be. The story of Jesus is a story of love. His eyes of compassion, His tender concern for the children, His willingness to heal and comfort, and greatest of all, His death on the cross in our place all give ample support for the song we learned as children, “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
There is, however, another side of Jesus which is not nearly so well advertised. I call it the tough side of Jesus. This same Jesus who was so tender and compassionate could also be stern and even severe when the situation warranted. Jesus would never make it as a seeker-sensitive pastor in today’s church. He was blunt and uncompromising in dealing with sin and hypocrisy among those who pretended an experience with God. Jesus was such a preacher. In fact He spoke more about hell than any other person in the Bible – more than Isaiah or Moses or Paul or Peter.
The two greatest crowd-gatherers in all the Scriptures, John the Baptist and Jesus, were both able and willing to thunder forth holy denunciations at those who defied God’s commandments.
And if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire where `their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.' Mark 9:47-48
Jesus could hardly have used more dramatic language to impress upon us the awfulness of hell. What a far cry from our usual, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Of course, God does love us all and does have a wonderful plan for the lives of those who will repent and trust in Christ. It is imperative that we see all aspects of Jesus’ nature, not just certain handpicked ones.
To miss Jesus’ tenderness makes us nervous and legalistic; to miss His toughness makes us sloppy and careless in our spiritual walk. It is His love and compassion that capture our hearts, but it is His toughness that stops us cold in our tracks when we start to stray and play near the boundaries of sin. I don’t know about y'all, but I’m glad He’s this way. I wouldn’t want my Lord to be a wimp.
His majestic holiness makes His love and forgiveness all the more wonderful. One of these days our world will see Jesus once again, AMEN.
CHRISTIAN OR "A CHRISTIAN"?
These people turn toward me with their mouths,
and honor me with lip service while their heart
is distant from me, and their fear of me is just
a human command that has been memorized.
I often wonder about polls that ask the question, "Do you consider yourself Christian?" Often the answer is given by the process of elimination - "Ok, so I'm not Buddhist, or Muslim, or Jewish, then I must be Christian." And of course we always say that we are a "Christian nation."
But, does that mean that we are all Christians - that we are all Christ followers? Not that Jesus pays attention to opinion polls, but if He did, I can just imagine His face when reading the percentage of people who checked the box marked "Christian."
He might say, "Hmm. News to Me."
Those who consider themselves "Christian" because it seems like the most fitting of the options - the ones who see it as a label instead of a lifestyle, an affiliation instead of a life-altering commitment - those may be among the ones referred to in our Scripture verse today.
They turn to Jesus the Lord - they follow Him with their lips only, not their body, heart, mind, soul, and strength. Their reverence for Him is human wording that they have memorized instead of a heartfelt, "Jesus, I'm all in."
Jesus didn't give His life to offer us access to a club or a free trial membership. He conquered death to give us real life. He invites us to follow Him to a life of grace, trials, answers, questions, forgiveness, and hope. He invites us to walk with Him into a wonderful future here on earth and after that an even more wonderful eternity.
Pretty much describes what it is like to follow Him, doesn't it?
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending Your Son to show us the way to You. May we always follow Him with all that we have and all that we are. Amen.
THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness. "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly in my weakness so that the power of Christ may rest in me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well.
Psalm 139: 13-14
Imperfection comes in many forms and can be the toughest moments in life. It can look like losing a job, struggling through a relationship, handling children in a less than sensitive way, experiencing hard things that bring us to our knees. It is often only then that we turn to God for help. When we humble ourselves to know that we can't solve every problem, can't heal every wound, can't find the key to every answer that's locked away, it seems it is only then that we can reap the reward of the "gifts of imperfection", Christ's love and Christ's power.
Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Let the power of Christ rest in you.
May the light of God surround me,
May the love of God enfold me,
May the power of God protect me,
May the presence of God watch over me,
Wherever I am God is.
In Your name I pray, Amen
Me vs We
"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline."
2 Timothy 1:7
This pandemic, just like any other stressful situation, brings out the best and worst in people. In our present society, with an emphasis on the "me "generation, it shines like a magnifying glass on the absolute need for everyone to be a "we "generation type of person. It glaringly illuminates the difference between "me" people and "we" people.
More than ever, everyone needs to be a "we "person. Everyone needs to take some time to focus on the needs of others. This is how we will get through this situation, successfully. As Christians, we know this and do this. The goal now becomes to share this message with as many other people as you can.
It can be daunting to consider speaking to other people about such things as being "your brother’s keeper" and providing care to others. But, now is a critical time to do so. It can be done as simply as just talking about goodness or caring or showing compassion. God will be at work in your words.
Precious Lord, we face a time when we all have a great need for all you provide. Help us to accept your spirit of power, love and discipline, so that your words may be heard through us to others. Amen
Deuteronomy 30:15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
When we are faced with difficult circumstances, experiences that seem beyond our control, it is most natural to ask "why?" It seems that when we look at the Bible for answers, we often find verses like the one above that doesn't seem to help at all. There are those that are quick to point out the prophecies against a culture of self-indulgence and greed that fuels the notion that God is punishing us with plagues and destruction. The COVID-19 virus sounds like a plague and demonstrations turned to riots exhibit destruction.
In Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount," found in Matthew 5, we read these words: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." The idea that God treats all the children on earth without preference challenges the idea that those who experience disaster are being punished for their wrongdoings. What does seem likely is that from every experience God has lessons to teach us.
Ask the family who has lost their livelihood due to a closed business or someone whose family has experienced death due to the virus in spite of their prayers, their faith, their dedication to their church and you'll have a tough time convincing them of that idea. Why? We know the scientific explanations and the sociological implications. Let's ask God to help us learn the lessons for us and give ourselves to God's challenge to love our neighbors and seek out the least, the lonely, the lost. We are God's hands and feet. Time to start walking.
Let’s Pray: God teach me the way to walk so that my heirs will inherit my faith, the most valuable of all my possessions. God put your hand upon the physical body of our pastor that he would be healed in the mighty name of Jesus. No weapon formed should prosper. No virus has the authority over the name that is above every name. For Jesus' sake. Amen.
Be still and know that I am God.
Do you make to-do-lists? I must confess that I do - all the time! And I must also confess that I have, on more than one occasion, written down a chore that I had already done, just to get the satisfaction of crossing the item off the list. There's something very satisfying about looking at a list of chores that have check marks next to each one. (Now, don't tell me I'm the only one who has done that!).
Lists are good, but if we concentrate too much doing what is on our to-do list, we can forget the importance of simply being. After all, we are human beings not human doings. God calls us to be many things: joyful, thankful, kind, forgiving and patient, just to name a few. But the most important "be" command is found all throughout the Bible: be holy; in other words, be like Jesus. That may sound like an impossible feat, but the secret is found in another "be" verse: be still. If we want to become Christ-like, we need to schedule quiet moments each day to settle our spirit and ask Him to give us strength to honor Him in everything we say and do.
The most important thing to do every day is to practice being like Jesus. Even when our day doesn't turn out like we hoped it would or like we planned. Even when we have to deal with a difficult person or when we receive bad news. Even when we are dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic! We will always face plenty of opportunities to choose between behaving like Christ would or acting on our natural instincts. In those moments, what we do will reflect who we are becoming. And, brothers and sisters, that is much more important than crossing off every item on the longest to-do list.
Let us pray: Dear heavenly Father, help us to always keep being like Christ as the first and most important item on our to-do list. Amen.
Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:14-16
Do you have trouble with this Scripture: "You shall be holy, for I am holy." I think maybe the reason for this is that most people think that being holy is the same as being totally sinless. So then, who could possibly be holy? It's impossible!
Someone once said, "I know holy means 'set apart,' but I don't want to be set apart. That sounds like being in quarantine for having a constant case of measles!'" Or maybe we might say being in quarantine for a constant case of Covid-19. Some do think that being a holy person means living a monkish life, praying twenty-three hours a day in order to avoid sin. But that's just not true! Holiness doesn't bring isolation - it brings integration. With Christ in us, His character becomes a part of us so that His nature will be expressed through us. In other words, if we have Christ in us, Christlikeness will come out of us naturally.
When we are set apart by God, holiness becomes natural. With Christ in us, we will grow to be like Him. Just like it says in 1 John 3:9:
"No one who is born of God will continue to sin,
because God's seed remains in him."
We all know that it is natural for the Lord NOT to sin. Therefore, with God's seed in us, it becomes increasingly natural for us not to sin. What seems impossible becomes possible. We will not become instantly sinless, but we will sin less and less and less.
God calls us holy. With His presence inside of us, He will produce the impossible in and through us. So, why should we settle for anything less?
Let us pray:
Gracious God, we want to be holy, but we need Your help. Fill us so completely with Your Spirit that we will grow every day to become more and more like You. Amen.
As born-again believers, we can learn how to prevail with God’s Word as a resource for success in our lives. In the Bible, to prevail, means to prove superior in power and influence. It means to dominate in prevailing power. A great section of scripture that teaches us about prevailing is found in the book of Philippians.
Philippians 4:11 – 13
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound everywhere and in all things. I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, which strengthened me.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you and give you His peace. Come to Calvary to find the cure for your sin condition. Be washed in the blood of Jesus to find the eternal, abundant life that begins now!
Let’s take a look at the seventh C: IN CHARGE.
John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Any area and facet of life that involves human beings, leadership is necessary and vital. Leaders that take charge bring their families and organizations from one level to the next. A prime example is our nation’s current season, specifically with leadership within the Body of Christ. While some pastors and leaders simply closed until directed otherwise, other churches and pastors rolled their sleeves up and did great work. Cornerstone Church in the past months has given away over ONE MILLION POUNDS OF FOOD through care boxes and hot meals. Our Pastors have not stopped preaching the Gospel. Our families have not stopped preparing for the next school year. Why? Because we have leaders and members that know they are IN CHARGE of what God has given them.
Men, we are called to be IN CHARGE of our families. Not as an authoritative tyrant in our homes and community, but as leaders willing to lay our lives down for the direction and betterment of our wives, children, and brothers and sisters in Christ. This is God’s intended design and purpose for men. Consider the following scriptures:
1 Corinthians 11:3
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
1 Timothy 3:4-5
…one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?).
You are IN CHARGE, men. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. You’re made in His image and likeness. He establishes your steps and is the strength of your life. Your family and children need you to lead, and lead well, so that you can collectively fulfill God’s plan for your lives, and for the Kingdom of God. The past is the past. Press on! The God who created you can do a NEW THING in your life, but you need to be CONFIDENT, COMMITTED, COURAGEOUS, COUNSELED, COMMUNICATIVE, CONCERNED, AND IN CHARGE.
We’ve discussed 5 of the 7 C’s of a Godly Man (Confident, Committed, Courageous, Counsel, and Communicates). Let’s take a look at the sixth C: CONCERNED.
King David writes in Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me…”. He wrote that to remind us about the Lord’s goodness to the faithful and the Lord’s CONCERN for us. Who are we that our Creator is willing to perfect all that concerns us? The Lord can perfect your marriage. The Lord can perfect your business. The Lord can perfect and redeem all of the things that we, as finite and mortal men, tarnish and damage. The question we must ask ourselves is… “Do we model that type of concern for the things we are called to steward?” Do we emulate a care and passion for the relationships and responsibilities that God has blessed us with? Let’s take a look at a passage where the most concerned and compassionate Man, Jesus Christ, took action with His concern:
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Our Savior was not an authoritarian drunk with power and not approachable. He was compassionate, He was concerned, and He was intentional in meeting that concern with action, love, and comfort. When He saw every sickness and every disease, He healed them. When He saw the weariness and lack of leadership and direction, He was moved with compassion because His creation was living at a lower standard than what they were created for. Jesus goes on to remind His disciples that there is much work to do, yet so little hands willing to help.
It’s incredibly easy to get fixated on personal goals and dreams. It’s not uncommon for God’s children to be so focused on their own desires, that they miss the opportunity to emulate the concern God has for them. Are we fully concerned about the relationships and responsibilities that God has placed in our control? Are we concerned and living out God’s plan and standard for our marriages, families, and businesses? Let us not be too distracted and ambitious that we miss the beauty and opportunity in serving those around us with compassion.
You’re needed. Your concern and attention towards the things of your family and of the Lord require your concern and action. Let us not be like the men Paul speaks about in 2 Timothy 3 who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Rather, let’s be like King Jesus, moved with concern and compassion.
Let’s look at the fifth C: COMMUNICATES.
What we say matters, and just as important, HOW we say it matters. Our speech has unlimited potential to build people or destroy reputations and relationships. It has the power to encourage and guide, or cause chaos and confusion. Scripture has much to say about our speech and communication:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
Whether we realize it or not, we are ALWAYS communicating. We are communicating our passions, convictions, and boundaries. We are communicating are interests, goals, and intentions. Though all of these aspects may not be verbalized out loud, we are communicating them, nonetheless. Peter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.” We communicate with others by way of our attitudes, perspectives, and presence (or lack thereof). Our attempt and intentions to communicate well matters.
Communicating with God. Are we ensuring we are intentionally making time to both speak to and hear form the Lord? Beyond attending church on Sunday, are we going before the Lord with bold humility inquiring from Him the strength, peace, and direction that only He can give? Most importantly, are we communicating our gratefulness and trust in Him with both our attitudes and deepest thoughts. He knows what drives you. He knows what intimidates you. He knows what’s attempting to pull your eyes and heart away from Him. Though He sees and knows all, we are given access to approach His throne of grace to communicate all that concerns us.
Communicating with family. Are we reaffirming and strengthening our wives and children? Or, have we stonewalled them without knowing it? Have we recently taken our wives out, sat her down, and simply blessed and praised her for all she does and who she is as woman of God,
wife, and mother? Do our children have to constantly guess what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling? Are we making our homes a safe space for our children to ask questions, wonder, and learn from us? Share your dreams, concerns, and your plans with your family. Bring them in on the goals that will benefit them through your hard work. Dave Willis writes, “You can’t control all the chaos happening in our world, but you can control whether or not you allow the chaos to come into your home. Make your house a safe refuge for you family.”
Communicating with leaders/friends. Your internal frustration will sooner or later become your external expression. It’s vital to communicate with your leaders and other brothers in Christ. You are not invincible or impermeable to the pressures of being a husband and father. Not only has God called you to these roles, He also created a support and prayer system for you to succeed. Proverbs 27:17 says,
“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” That verse was written in the context of godly brotherhood, and we ought to utilize all of God’s tools and blessings that help build our life.
Communicate! It’s easier for some than it is for others. The amazing thing is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and God has blessed you with brothers in the faith, leaders above you, and a beautiful family in your home to communicate the goodness and direction of God.
We’ve discussed 3 of the 7 C’s (Confident, Committed, and Courageous). Let’s take a look at the fourth C: COUNSEL.
"Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel – that will stand."
Counsel can differ in its delivery. Counsel can be advice, guidance, direction, instruction, etc. Though the applications vary, the principle remains the same: as men of God, we should be humble enough to learn and grow from others. Without sound counsel, we run the risk of believing everything we think, do, and generate from our own minds is correct and the only way. As the verse above shows, there are many plans in a man’s heart, but it’s the Lord’s counsel that will stand in the end. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “He that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.” Scripture has a similar, more assertive perspective:
“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”
Essentially, counsel and correction go hand-in-hand. Ken Blanchard says, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” When we allow mentors, coaches, supervisors, spiritual leaders, and friends, to speak into our lives and provide counsel and perspective that we are possibly missing, we open the door to growth, refining, and maturity. Jesus consistently did this with His disciples. In love, He exposed the darkest parts of their hearts and character, all while giving them grace and mercy to learn from their experiences. He restored Peter, helped Thomas believe again, and humbled the overly-presumptuous Sons of Thunder, James and John. Jesus (being the Wonderful Counselor prophesied in Isaiah 9) continually showed His followers how to move forward while being counseled and corrected and never wrote them off when they exhibited vulnerability and need for direction. That’s the Jesus we serve! When we open our lives to Him and to spiritual authority to receive godly counsel, we not just become better for Him, but more effective for our wives, our children, our employees, and more!
Child of God, consider Psalm 141: 5: "Let the righteous strike me, it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me, it shall be as excellent oil, let my head not refuse it." We need to remember that God resists a proud heart but gives grace to the humble. Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit is revealing areas in our lives where sound counsel is greatly needed. There is blessing in correction. There is reward and anointing in submitting to godly direction. Pray for the Lord to highlight key individuals for you to learn from. Invite them for lunch or coffee. Ask questions. Take notes. Grow for your calling and your family. Praying with you and for you!
The 7 C’s of a Godly Man – Part 3: Courageous
Courage is an interesting trait and force. With it, one can conquer the deepest insecurities and fears. Without it, one can crumble under the pressure of fears and hypotheticals that don’t have any form of materializing. Courage can fuel one to complete the vision God has given them, but without courage, dreams and aspirations don’t get past the thrill of the moment of its thoughtful conception. One of modern history’s greatest leaders, Winston Churchill, famously said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” That truth resonates very well considering the state of our nation. There is chaos, rebellion, fearmongering, and a void in voices driving mass courage rather than manipulative control. Just like God’s people in Deuteronomy, we are desperately needing to harness and spread a spirit and attitude of courage. God tells them in Deuteronomy 3:16: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Man of God, just as Paul told Timothy, we want to encourage you: God did not give you a spirit of fear but one of power, love, and a sound mind!
POWER. Your courage is rooted in the literal strength that only God has given you to accomplish what He has called you to do. It’s through his power that you have ability, skills, and creativity to fulfill your role in the Kingdom of God. That role might be running your business to bless your community, leading your family to produce world changers, or simply giving your talents and resources to the Church for the advancement of His name.
LOVE. Your courage is rooted in the love that He has poured onto us through His Holy Spirit. It’s the marker of being in relationship with a Creator who is the embodiment of love, compassion, empathy, and understanding. Your ability to manifest God’s love is exactly what others need in a time of hopelessness and frustration.
SOUND MIND. Your courage is rooted in the mental and emotional fortitude that the Lord has given you to make decisions, process your circumstances, and filter your emotions through the Word of God. In a time of discord and confusion, it will be your sound mind form the Lord that will be useful to navigate through the drama and noise and towards the promises of God and His intended outcome.
Man of God, your courage matters! Though the moment or season may not be ideal or convenient, remember the eternal words of John Wayne: “Courage is being scared death…and saddling up anyway.”
7 C’s of a Godly Man – Part 2: Confidence
Our recent Men’s Fellowship event incorporated Building A Deck. Our volunteer builders both ministered while building and made amazing parallels of how vital a competent framework is. Just as a strong deck needs a strong foundation, our reliance in God’s word should be our sound foundation upon which we lead our lives, love our wives, and build our families. Like beginning with a specific deck block, our life must be built outward and upon Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.
One parallel that our builder made was this: “Not only do we need the correct tools to build this deck, there is one characteristic that must be coupled with your tools: confidence.” Our builder stated, “Without confidence, I cannot handle this drill, or trust my own ability to build a secure foundation. But because I’ve experienced and mastered these tools, I build with confidence.” In like manner, we cannot become the men that God calls us to be without confidence. Our confidence, when humbly combined with the right tools, are formidable weapons for the fight in the faith. More so, when we understand and place our confidence in the Lord, we can accomplish anything. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds….”.
Man of God, your confidence matters. Your ability to believe in yourself, without giving into self-idolatry, is needed to weather the storm of enemies and the unexpected battles of life. The life you are leading and building ought to be filled with the confidence in God who created you. - Cornerstone Men’s Fellowship
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not lean on your own understanding.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question that adults have asked children for generations. When we ask a child this question, we assume that as children grow older, they will mature. As they mature, children will get smarter and then will be ready for the job of their dreams. We encourage children of all ages to "grow up" because we think that is what's best for them.
When it comes to matters of faith, "Grow up!" is not the Lord's wish for us. In fact, Jesus advises just the opposite:
I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins
and become like little children,
you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 18:2 NLT
Jesus wasn't encouraging immature behavior. There is a difference between being childlike and being childish. Jesus wasn't recommending that we stay forever dependent on others. What He was encouraging was a simple, childlike faith. This kind of faith trusts the Father without question. This kind of faith rests in peace in the One who knows what's best for us. We believe that He will bring good out of even the worst of circumstances.
Many times we resent it when our plans are interrupted. When bad things happen - like Coronavirus - we may shake our fist at God in anger and frustration. We may even act like a small, spoiled child, stamping our feet at not getting our own way.
When we can't answer the why or don't understand the ways of God, we can always trust His wisdom.
When we attempt to figure out why God does the things He does or why He seemingly refuses to act when we think He should, His Holy Spirit reminds us of the simple truth - God loves us. Always and forever, we are His children.
Today's Prayer: Father, help us trust in You. Especially now, during this pandemic, when we don't know what the future holds. Help us to always remember that You love us more than we can ever imagine. Amen.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
No matter where you go be bold. Be strong. Be courageous. It is not a choice. It is a commandment. We must be bold and courageous. Sports is not for the weak or timid. Neither is life. You are called to be more than a conqueror. It is 4th and goal on the 2 yard line. Courage will determine who will win.
Conquerors are always ready to play the next play. You can’t change the previous play; nor catch the ball that you dropped. Continue to stay focus on the prize and press forward. With this attitude you will win the next play on the field and off the field.
GOD IS GOOD ANYWAY!
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the Glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18
There is something that we all need to realize...there are just some things that we can't change. Like:
That last one is a good one - God is good anyway! We need to be reminded often that, regardless of our circumstances, God is constantly being good. And, we're not the only ones who forget this. Your best friend does, the person who usually sits in the pew in front of you at church does, and so does the driver waiting in the car next to you at the stoplight.
We are often reluctant to say, "God is good." We think our cup has to be full before we can share the news that God is good with somebody else. That's just not true! And we don't have to have everything just the way we want it to be before we can reach out to someone else.
You don't have to be wealthy to start giving to the poor. You don't have to be perfectly organized to start giving of your time. You don't have to have a beautiful home to invite other people in. You don't have to be especially gifted to start making a difference in the world. If you don't have it all together, join the club. Use what you have. Begin with the things in your hands. Don't wait another minute to give from what you have - begin today.
I know sometimes we feel too low to even take a baby step in order to help someone else. But when our cup is so empty that we wonder where the strength is going to come from...give, and it will be given to you.
For each minute you think you have nothing to give, you lose sixty seconds of giving. For every hour you feel sorry for yourself, you lose sixty minutes to comfort someone. For every day you wait to get going on the task to which God has called you, you lose twenty-four hours to bless the world.
Don't wait to start smiling if you're feeling blue. The Lord has given us a face, but it's up to us to provide the expression. And, guys, once the joy of giving gets in your system, it's bound to break out on your face.
You have a beautiful heart that is loved by the Lord Jesus. That is all you need. So don't wait until your troubles are behind you. Act now! Go to the phone and call some friends. Check on them. Share some joy with them. Tell them that God is good! Even in this pandemic - God is good!!
And, then, if you still have time on your hands...and I'm sure you will, just work on your devotion for our Advent Devotional. Spread the word that GOD IS GOOD!!
Let us pray: Lord, keep us aware that this moment is the most precious moment of our lives. Help us to use it to reach out in Your name. Amen.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Are we secure in our hearts that there is nothing that can come between us and the love of God? We are in a time like no other that we have seen, we are tested daily. Are we secure knowing that nothing can separate us from the love God has for us...?
I was asked by a friend a question that I'm quite sure a lot of us have at the back of our minds if not in the front; The question was this, "Do you think God has sent this virus for us to learn from?"
The first thing that came to mind was the first 6 words from John 3:16; "For God so loved the world..."
Isn't this what we want? To be free from worry and to feel safe? God is here in the now and He is giving us His security. Paul's list in this verse are just a few of the fears that we have, knowing that there are many more he chose the most dreadful and for that reason he wants the people to be convinced that there is NOTHING that can separate God's love for us. This is no different than the love we have for our children. We will stop at nothing to protect our children. Please never forget that we are all His children and that He too will stop at nothing to protect us!
It is okay to ask questions, never be afraid to ask as God knows before you think it, just what you are going to ask and He will remind you that you are His and there is nothing that can separate us from His love!!
God loves you so much that he gave His only Son....
Let us Pray:
Ever loving God, thank you so much for never leaving our side. Thank you for the grace that you give us freely for the taking. Never let us forget that nothing will ever separate us from You. Watch over us, give us strength and courage to deal with whatever comes our way. We pray this in Jesus' name.... Amen
As we prepare to start the process of getting back to normalcy, the word Preparedness comes to mind. Preparedness refers to a very concrete research-based set of actions that are taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters.
"Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Ephesians 6:13 - 17
Always be prepared. Stay ready for God’s play and execute it with confidence knowing that you have full protection. The bible says be ready in season and out of season. When your number gets called, take up the whole armor of God, that you may by be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
“The Coronavirus, this too will pass! We must look to the Cross of Jesus!
As coaches and parents, we’re subject to having good days and bad days. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I always like winning better than losing. I am sure that you agree too. Enough losses in a row, and any of us can get a little blue. So how do we maintain a joyful life? The Bible gives us some good answers, as in the text above.
In these verses, there are three directives and one reason that combine to show us the way to a joyful life:
First, rejoice always. More than a command, this is a reassuring encouragement that we can find something to be joyful about in every circumstance. Lead with your conscience (spirit man) will and let your emotions follow along.
Second, pray without ceasing. Keep talking to Jesus. Let Him be the One you Look too. If you took this seriously, you’d never sleep, eat, or study. That’s probably not what Paul meant. Surely he meant that there is never a situation for us in which prayer is not proper and powerful.
Third, in everything give thanks; not for everything, but in everything. In all situations give thanks to the Lord, and you’ll cultivate a joyful, thankful attitude that rises above any circumstances.
This is the will of God in Christ for you. The Lord joins you in your rejoicing, He communes with you when you pray, and He blesses you when you thank Him. He is most desirous of an intimate, personal relationship with you, and He knows that these things serve to deepen that relationship.
As you prepare for today’s agenda, schedule, stay at home, competition, rejoice, pray, and be thankful. In doing so, you are fulfilling God’s will for your life today.
Father, help me find real joy in parenting those in my charge. Help me to pray effectively for their success and development. Thank You for the immense privilege that is mine to serve You. Amen.
Don’t Give Up
When you are up against a tough opponent and defeat is near, don’t give up. God has control of the situation. Keep fighting. He is holding you with His right hand. Imagine God’s hand holding you. With the right attitude, the proper training, commitment and God on your side you can do all things. He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you. It takes effort and it is not be easy, but you will have the victory if you don’t give up.
Without going into the particular story of Jesus used, it's helpful and important to focus on the lesson Jesus wanted to get across to us. His point was for us to never give up the practice of prayer and to never give up hope for answers to our prayers. Understanding that we would be tempted by what appeared to be lack of progress or answers in response to our prayers, Jesus said, "Keep on praying!"
He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. Psalm 18:34-36
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.
Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
– Luke 22:42
Life has a way of getting our attention! In an instant, the routine can be replaced by the unexpected. The day of my brother’s open-heart surgery had arrived. The pre-operation tests had been completed the day before and now my sister and I stood over him as he waited to be wheeled into the surgery room. Nervous small talk and anxious glances were exchanged as time tapped the brakes. He held out his hand to take ours and we had a special time of prayer. No sooner had we gotten “Amen” out of our mouths, he looked straight into my eyes and said with a smile, “You want to swap places?” My honest reply was “No.” That question kept playing in my mind as we waited for word on his surgery. Somewhere in my thoughts I realized that while I didn’t want to swap places with my brother, I would be willing to do it if it were necessary. Why, because I love him and would do anything for him. Praise God, the surgery was a complete success.
The life and death of Jesus teach us a great deal. We can’t fully comprehend what Jesus was experiencing in the hours leading up to His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. He certainly knew what the future held, but being God and man, he asked what we all would ask, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.” In my own mind I hear the question as, “God, I’ll do it, but if there is another way, I’m listening.” Jesus wasn’t trying to get out of God’s plan for Him, but we can be certain that He didn’t look forward to the trial that lay ahead. We know that because He was committed to the will of His Father and lived it out through His death on the cross. I could not take my brother’s place as he prepared for surgery and no one else could take Jesus’ place as He died for the sins of the world. The irony of this is that Jesus swapped places with us. Why? Because He loves us and would do anything for us.
Father, Your love for me is unlimited. Help me to see my trials as part of Your plan to make me the person You want me to be. Amen.
STOP WISHING AND START WORKING
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
– Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
Well, here we are! 2020 is slowly fading in our rearview mirror as our attention shifts to a new year approaching full-speed through our front windshield. Time just keeps on moving regardless of our circumstances. 2020 has presented unwanted challenges for us all. Many aspects of our lives have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, yet day by day, time marches on. We often find ourselves hoping that time will pass quickly so we can put our troubles behind us. I’m often reminded that wishing away our lives is not a very good idea. Time is a precious commodity. One blessing the 2020 pandemic has brought into my life is seeing and understanding the value of each and every day. My mindset has gradually shifted away from what the future might hold, to what can I do to make today the best day ever? What can I do today to become a better person, a better spouse, a better friend or a better witness for Jesus?
No matter how young or how old we are, no one really has more than the present moment. Today, right now, is what we have, and we must decide what we want to do with it. We will never have it again! Too often we choose to live in the past wasting our valuable present. The past is the past and it’s gone. Let it go! We must learn to focus our energy and resources on the present. Use today to make yourself a better you. Use today to make a new friend or encourage an old one. Get rid of a bad habit or develop a habit that improves your life. Stop wishing and start working. Stop doubting and start believing. Stop blaming and start encouraging. Stop putting things off and start doing. Start living the way God wants us to live—with richness, with purpose, with boundless energy and with unlimited love. What are you waiting for?
Father, thank You for this day. Help me to see that this very moment is a gift from You. Teach me to be joyful and to take delight in it. Amen.
"Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep."
1 Sam 30:4
David and his six hundred warriors returned to their city only to find that their wives and children had been taken captive, their homes burned, and all their possessions had been taken. It was an unimaginable loss that broke every man’s heart, and they didn’t know what to do. The Bible says the first thing they did was to lift up their voices and weep until they could weep no more.
The world we live in is a heartbreaking place. Some heartbreaks and grief come without warning, and others come as the end result of rejection, betrayal or poor choices made over time. When your heart breaks, it’s right and good to cry. There is nothing strong about stoicism. David was brave enough to fight a giant. His men were so mighty that stories are still told about them today. Yet, these warriors wept.
But it’s what you do when the weeping is over that determines whether or not you’re going to be a victor or victim. In his great distress, David “strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” He refused to give up, and instead, rose up to be his best, defeating the enemy. You can do the same as David by tapping into the only true source of strength—our God!
"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope"
When you look back at what God has done historically, you can build expectation about what He can do for you. When you see how He consistently blessed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you know that if He blessed a father, son and grandson, He will bless you, your children and your grandchildren, too. When you look back at how He delivered the children of Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh and brought them miraculously from their past into the full potential of their future, you recognize that He can destroy every shackle of sin and set you free from every bondage and addiction that binds you. And you can, with comfort, declare that whom the Son sets free is free indeed.
When you read about the manna and the water from a rock in the wilderness, about Jericho’s walls that came down with a shout, and how a giant was defeated with David’s stone, you can trust God enough to declare in faith believing, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” When you read how Jesus Christ touched multitudes of the sick and healed them all and how He fed the masses with a sack lunch, you know that our God is full of power and able to provide more than you could ask, think or imagine.