Thank you, Colin Kaepernick

Thank you for breaking the hold that professional football had on my time and attention. Before you decided to use my favorite sport as your personal platform, I scheduled my weekends around watching college and professional football. Since then, I have stopped watching the NFL altogether. That has freed up several hours each week to do things that are, quite frankly, more interesting and far more valuable uses of my time.

Much of the Old Testament is the history of the nation of Israel. God called the Israelites to be His people–set apart to worship the one true God with all their hearts and their minds and their souls. The nations that surrounded them worshiped many false gods–idols.

The Israelites had a tendency to cast their eyes at their neighbors and begin to integrate their lifestyles and practices into Israel’s culture. Time and time again, we read that Israel built altars to false gods and turned their back on the Lord God Jehovah.

God would allow the Israelites to sink into bondage until a new leader arose who tore down the altars–the high places–and led the people back into worshiping God alone.

American Christians have allowed false gods, such as professional athletes and celebrities, to capture our attention and our devotion. It is time to pull down the high places–the NFL, the NBA, Hollywood, or whatever it is that has captured our hearts–and give our full devotion to the Lord.

These things no longer have my attention. And, for that, I am thankful to Colin Kaepernick for helping to break my fascination with football.

Rejoicing for Sinners Who Repent

One Sunday many years ago, our minister stopped the musicians in the middle of a song and announced that he felt impressed by the Holy Spirit that someone wanted to make things right with God. Before he could finish speaking, his youngest son, Johnny, rushed down the aisle into his father’s arm and invited Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation.  Johnny was a young adult with a wife and children, and many of us had known him since he was a child.  We had seen him struggle with faith and turn his back on God.  Even when his wife accepted Jesus as her Savior, Johnny stayed away.

But God didn’t turn his back on Johnny.  God loved him and wanted Johnny to be a part of his family.  The church members had prayed diligently and fervently, along with his parents and family, for Johnny to come back to God. This was the day we had prayed for.  The rejoicing in that sanctuary was like nothing I had ever experienced.  For nearly an hour, people throughout the sanctuary stood and raised their hands and their voices to God, praising Him for a lost sheep that had come home.

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Sadly, I have not experienced that level of congregational rejoicing over a sinner coming to repentance again.  Of course, we are happy when we see a sinner repent.  We may  applaud and shout “Hallelujah”.  But, how often do we truly rejoice?   Jesus taught the apostles about rejoicing in the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.  It’s recorded in book of Matthew and Luke.  This version is from Luke 15:4-10.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

 

Jesus tells us that the angels in Heaven rejoice over every sinner who repents.  Should we not also rejoice?  Coming to Jesus and accepting His free gift of forgiveness is the greatest decision a person can ever make, and all Christians should rejoice with him or her upon making this decision. We should celebrate exuberantly and weep with joy.

Last night, Sean Hannity interviewed Roger Stone on his evening television show.  By all accounts, Roger Stone is a person who has made many mistakes and many enemies.  But, in that interview, he testified that he has come to repentance and thanked Sean Hannity for convincing him to confess his sins and be reborn.

But more than anything else, I am grateful for God because as you told me, if I would — if I would rededicate my life to Christ, I would be reborn.

I can remember it like it was yesterday and your advice was as solid as can be. You said, God will never desert you. He will never abandon you. He will protect you if you — if you confess your sins and you walk in his way. And I’ve done my very best to do that.

Roger Stone on Hannity

 

Today I am rejoicing that another lost sheep has been welcomed back into the fold.  Roger Stone has confessed his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  This should fill us with joy and hope. And it should remind us to reaffirm our commitment to pray for our unsaved loved ones, our unsaved neighbors and friends, and our unsaved leaders.  Every person needs God. Every person needs forgiveness.  Every person needs to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Let’s pray for everyone we know to respond to Jesus’s offer of forgiveness and salvation.  And when they come to Jesus, let’s rejoice as though the greatest thing has just occurred.  Because it has.

 

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Being Salt and Light

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:13-14, NKJV

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In his book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince writes , “the full extent of our responsibility as Christians [is] to exercise a unique and decisive influence on–that is, to rule–the society in which we live.”  He points out that a city situated on top of a hill is visible from all directions; it is conspicuous.  As Christians, we should be conspicuous in society for being different, for reflecting Christ.

My mother emphasized to my siblings and I that people are always watching Christians to see if they their actions line up with their stated beliefs.  She realized that someone considering making a decision for Christ could be turned off by a Christian who in a moment of anger spouted cursing or displayed inappropriate behavior in any circumstance. 

The secular world desperately wants to know if our claims of being changed by Christ are real.  They are looking for authentic faith.  When our actions reflect Christ, we will be a light shining in a dark world.  People will be attracted to the light.

In this passage, Jesus also talks about salt.  Prince points out that salt has two function.  As a seasoning, it gives flavor, and as a preservative, salt prevents decay, or corruption.  In terms of adding flavor, Prince write, “If we are the salt of the earth, we are like little granules sprinkled across the earth’s surface.  Our responsibility is to give the earth flavor…Our presence should make the earth acceptable to God in a way that it would not be acceptable to Him if we were not here as Christians living out our lives in His grace and love, worshiping and praising Him, and praising Him and praying according to His will.”  I love the visual picture of our love, praise, worship, and testimonies being sprinkled over the earth and giving it flavor.

As a preservative, Prince says that we are “to hold back the forces of corruption–moral corruption, social corruption, political corruption–until God’s purposes of mercy and grace have been worked out for this world of ours.”  I fear that we have failed greatly in that responsibility.  Everywhere we see evidence or moral, social, and political corruption in America.

Jesus has called Christians to be salt and light in this world.  We need to stand out by reflecting Christ to those around. We daily encounter people who are hurting, people who feel unloved or unworthy, people who need to know that Christ offers hope, forgiveness, and a new life.  Let us all strive to be a bright shining beacon of hope to those around us, pointing the way to Jesus.

 

 

Praying for Those in Authority

“The people who really rule the world are the those who know how to pray.”                               Derek Prince

In the third chapter of his book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince provided clear guidance on why Christians must pray regularly and effectively for the leaders of our nation.  I will share here a summary of his work, and I encourage all who read this to buy this book and to begin to pray fervently for our nation and our leaders–all of them, not just those with whom you agree, or those with whom you disagree.

“Therefore I exhort first all all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”            1 Timothy 2:1 -4

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1) The primary activity of believers is Prayer.    In Isaiah 56:7, God tells his people, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  Our first responsibility is to pray for all people and especially our government.

2) It is in our best interest to pray for our government.  As Christian pray for our government, our leaders will govern in ways that lead to the peace and safety of all people.

3) Our nation was founded on the principle that people should be allowed to leave quiet and peaceful lives that provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  This happens when the government provides a framework for law, order, and administration.

4) The outcome of good government is that it facilitates the preaching of the gospel.  And the end result is that people will be saved and come to know the truth of God’s love and mercy.

If we believe that our government has failed us, then we have to come to the realization that the government has failed for one of two reasons:

1) We have not prayed for our government as we ought to have.

2) We have prayed but without knowing the will of God.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells us that it is God’s will that we have good government.  We need to be praying earnestly and daily for our government. 

Prince writes, “We criticize. We complain. But we fail to pray.  This is why we see worldwide moral and ethical decline, both in leadership and in national culture.  We have not understood the limitless possibilities of praying according to God’s will as revealed in His Word.”

Imagine the power that can be released if all of God’s people in America prayed daily for our government leaders.  Let’s all commit to that goal.  I think that we will be amazed at what God will do.

Creativity in Quarantine

I received an email this week that contained a tweet by @martinkl.  The tweet read, “In 1665, the University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the bubonic plague.  Isaac Newton had to work from home, and he used this time to develop calculus and the theory of gravity.”  Wow!  That is a truly productive use of a quarantine.

There is little in the news this weekend other than the coronavirus threat.  Like many others, I have sought to protect myself by avoiding crowds and spent most of the weekend in self-imposed quarantine.  I do not have any reason to believe that I have been exposed to the virus, nor do I have any of the serious underlying health conditions that would make me an ideal candidate for catching the disease.  But I am in my 60’s and I feel no reason to take unnecessary risks.

The quiet weekend left me with time to reflect and time to write.  I have been ‘stuck’ in writing a novel for several years, so much so that I laid it aside.  Last week I picked it back up and continued to struggle with how to move the story forward.  Tonight I had a break through.  Some people would call this a burst of creativity.  I believe that I heard from God.  After I prayed for guidance, I quietly waited and the Lord revealed His plan for this particularly novel.  In just a few moments, the story line became clear.  Don’t misunderstand me. It won’t be easy.  I have lots of work to do, which will involve a major editing and rewriting of the work I had done.  But, I can see where this story will go now, and it is much better than the story I had intended to write.

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I read a blog recently in which the author theorized that creativity blossoms in extended periods of quiet.  He encouraged people to block out 3 – 4 hours of interrupted time daily to do creative work. I concur totally. When I have uninterrupted periods of a few hours or more in which to write, I am more creative and productive than when I try to write in shorter blocks of time.  I believe that the blog author had discovered a Biblical principal.  God speaks to us when we are still and quite.   Psalm 46:10 admonishes us to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.”  In 1 Kings 19 Elijah seeks a revelation of the Lord, and the Lord appears to him as a gentle whisper.

Whether you go about life semi-normally for the next few weeks or you practice social distance and self-quarantining, I hope that you will take some extended time to be still and quiet.  You may find that this will be on of the greatest periods of creativity in your life.

 

Money Can Buy Happiness

There’s a famous saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.”  There are many studies that show that having and spending lots of money does not increase happiness.  Michael Norton, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard University, disagrees with that statement, with a caveat.  He says that money can buy happiness IF you spend it right.

How do you spend it right?  By spending it on others.  He did experiments a few years back in which he gave small amounts of money to different groups of people.  Some were instructed to spend it on themselves and the rest were told they had to spend the money on someone else.  Regardless of whom they spent the money on or the amount of money they spent, all who used the money for someone else reported higher levels of happiness at the end of the experiment.

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I love it when scientists, or social scientists in this case, prove the Word of God.  In Acts 20:35, Paul told the Ephesians, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” is really another way of saying that you can achieve happiness by sharing your money with others.  And, of course, giving doesn’t only involve money.  You can be blessed by sharing your time, talents, and attention with others.  Not all of us have the financial resources to give away large amounts of money. But we all have something we can give.  And, as this study affirmed, even giving small amounts of money can bless someone and increase your level of happiness.

Further more, generosity brings blessings.  Proverbs 22:9 tells us “Whoever has a generous eye will be blessed,” and Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack.”

I would encourage you to look for opportunities each day to bless someone else with your money, time, or talent.  In this way, you will ensure that your days are blessed and filled with happiness.

 

Meditate on the Lord

In an article titled ‘There’s a Dark Side to Meditation That No One Talks About,’ author Lila MacLellan discusses possible negative outcomes from meditation that are not often discussed. Meditation is typically presented as a method of reflection which provides relief from stress and pain and can give the practitioner better focus. However, the author discusses unpleasant effects, or ‘warped perceptions’, that can arise during meditation. She writes, “Zen Buddhism has a word for the warped perceptions that can arise during meditation: makyo, which combines the Japanese words for “devil” and “objective world.””

I personally have no experience with this type of meditation.  I was cautioned against meditation while still a teenager by my mother who believed that mindless, zen-like meditation could open one’s mind to strange thoughts and attacks by the devil.  So the quote above caught my attention.  It seems that my mother was not using a scare tactic to keep me away from something she didn’t understand.  Rather, there is a lot of truth in her warning, and I am particularly glad to have heeded her words.

When we seek truth, the Bible should be our source.  The Bible actually encourages meditation.  However, the focus of this meditation is not on oneself but rather on the Lord and His commands.  “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. ” Joshua 1:8

According to this verse, meditating on God’s word makes one prosperous and successful.  That is a pretty powerful benefit.  Meditating on God’s Word produces other benefits:

1) Blessings:  “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,  but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,  which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

2) Help from the Lord in times of trouble: “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint….I will consider all your works  and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77: 1 – 3, 12

3) Reminds us of God’s faithfulness:  “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.  They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”  Psalm 145:  3 – 7

4) Wisdom:  “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.” Psalm 119: 98- 100

There is no downside to meditating on God’s Word.  God reveals Himself to us and His plans for us, as we focus our attention on Him and meditate on His commands. I encourage you to meditate on the truth of God’s Word to find the peace, encouragement, and direction you are seeking.

In God We Trust

This week the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ has been in the news.  Brevard County Sheriff’s department added decals with the phrase to their patrol cars.  An atheist group has challenged the sheriff’s right to do so, stating that it is “frightening and politically dubious for the local police department to announce to citizens that officers rely on the judgment of a deity rather than on the judgment of the law.”  Their words could be no farther from the truth.

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I believe that it is frightening and foolish to put one’s trust in any person, organization, or institution rather than in the Lord God.  God created us, loves us, and provides for all our needs, the most important of which is our eternal salvation.   Trusting in the Lord not only makes sense, but comes with great benefits.

  • Trusting in God brings peace and joy.  Romans 15:13 tells “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • God protects those who trust in Him.  “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. 2 Samuel 22:31
  • God directs the path of those who trust Him. Proverbs 3: 5 -6 encourages us to “ Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
  • God blesses those who trust  in Him.  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

‘In God We Trust’ is our national motto.  It is printed on our currency.  It makes perfect sense that those who put their lives on the line every day for their fellow citizens would put their trust in God and would want to display the motto on their vehicles.

Where do you put your trust?  If you are looking for security, peace, protection, direction, and blessings, I highly recommend putting your trust in God.

The Law of the Lord is Perfect

When I was much younger, my church used to sing the words of Psalm 19: 7 – 11 regularly.  It is a beautiful song and full of truth.  God’s Word is true, and His law is perfect.  God’s Word provides us with all we need to know to live lives that are full, happy, and blessed.

There is great discontentment in our society today.  People are searching for satisfaction in things that will never bring satisfaction–wealth, power, prestige, fame, and physical pleasure–to name a few.  There is nothing wrong with these things, in and of themselves, but they can never bring lasting joy and contentment without a relationship with God.  It’s easy to see that worldly gain and pleasure do not satisfy.  Lack of peace and contentment is evidenced by increased use of alcohol, narcotics and illegal drugs to mask pain and dissatisfaction.  People seeking love go from marriage to marriage, relationship to relationship, without finding true love.

The answer to the discontentment is a relationship with Jesus Christ which is built solidly on God’s Word.  As the psalmist wrote so eloquently, God’s Word brings conversion, wisdom, rejoicing, and enlightenment.  His truths are to be desired and when we follow His commands and obey His law, there really is great reward.

 

Psalm 19: 7 – 11

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

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Paul’s Admonition to be Generous

This morning I read 2 Corinthians 9 during my morning devotions.  Paul devoted the entire chapter to encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous and to fulfill the commitment it had made to assist poorer Christians in Macedonia.  Paul had been bragging to other congregations of the generous gift the Corinthians had promised, and he wanted to insure that the gift would be ready when it was needed.

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As Paul continues through the chapter, he encourages them that God will bless them as they bless others and tells them that it is impossible to out-give God.  Although Paul is speaking specifically about being generous with our money, his words also apply to being generous with people in many other ways, such as love, service, time, attention, guidance, and forgiveness.  Paul says that our obedience in generosity will in enrich our lives and allow God to be even more generous with us, and it will cause people to give thanks and honor to God.

In the final verses of this chapter, Paul writes, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.  And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9: 12 – 15, The Message)

How can we not be generous when we read stirring words like these?  Generosity towards others blesses us more than it does the recipients and it brings honor and glory to God.

How has God blessed you after you demonstrated generosity?